The race for the playoffs in the Gallagher Premiership is beginning to hot up with Bath and Wasps both firmly in the mix as they prepare to face-off at the Rec on Bank Holiday Monday.
Stuart Hooper’s Bath are beginning to build some momentum and have named a strong side to face a Wasps outfit who are significant
12/5 underdogs, despite only being one point behind this week’s opponents in the table.
That clash in the south-west is preceded by a London derby as London Irish attempt to end their losing run against relegated Saracens. The reigning Premiership and European champions might not have much to play for but with the pressure off, present a mammoth test for the Exiles.
Toothless Irish Face Sarries Mauling
Having already lost their Premiership status as a result of breaching salary cap rules, the main focus for Saracens is their European Champions Cup campaign, which restarts on 18 September.
However, that doesn’t mean they have eased off in domestic action and they head to Irish’s temporary home of The Stoop off the back of beating Gloucester 36-20 last Wednesday.
It was a far from full strength side that got the better of the Cherry and Whites and they have bolstered their pack for the meeting with the Exiles by recalling England trio Jamie George, Maro Itoje and Billy Vunipola, while South Africa prop Vincent Koch is also handed a start.
Creevy Key for Inexperienced Exiles
In contrast to a Saracens squad packed full of international talent, Irish head coach Declan Kidney has named a starting XV featuring nine academy graduates. They do have a sprinkling of stardust though, with Argentina’s most-capped player Agustin Creevy handed his debut at hooker.
Creevy will need to bring discipline to an Irish pack that conceded far too many penalties to Leicester Tigers in last Wednesday’s 13-7 defeat, a result which extended the Exiles’ losing run to five matches.
Irish have struggled to get over the try line since the restart and the loss to Leicester was the second match in succession in which they finished the game with a single figure next to their name on the scoreboard. While the reverse fixture between these two was tight – Saracens won 16-13 – Sarries have what it takes to cover the -27.5 handicap at
Bath Need to Stay Out of Hot Water Against Dangerous Wasps
Bath have been one of the standout teams in the Premiership since rugby returned, stringing together three wins to move into the fourth and final play-off spot.
Wasps are amongst the sides trying to chase them down but would appear to have their work cut out if they are to make the Premiership semi-finals.
Bath have lost just once at home since November and have swatted Wasps to one side on their last two visits to Somerset.
However, this is a Wasps team that has only been beaten once on their travels in the Premiership since December and they had been on a five-match winning run before their 11-20 loss to Sale last midweek. They also beat Bath in the reverse fixture at the Ricoh and are worth considering at
5/6 starting with +7.5-points.
Cagey Contest at The Rec
Bath have named a strong side for this game having rested the majority of their big guns for the 18-3 win at Northampton with the likes of Rhys Priestland, Ben Spencer, Ruaridh McConnochie and Anthony Watson bolstering their backline.
Wasps have a few injury concerns so don’t have the luxury of rotating their side as much as Bath, with nine of the starting XV that lost to Sale keeping their places.
This should be a tighter game than the odds suggest for the most part with Bath’s strength in depth likely to tell late when the replacements start getting involved. With the home side set to come on strong late, it is worth considering
4/5 on the second half featuring the most points.
*All odds correct at time of writing