Saturday sees the Premiership semi-finals take place and we’re set for two mouth-watering encounters.
First up, Saracens host Wasps at Allianz Park (KO 12:30) before the later clash of the Exeter Chiefs and Newcastle Falcons (KO 15:30).
Here we take a look at the matchday 23s for each side and predict who will contest the Twickenham final next weekend, with leovegas.com.
Saracens v Wasps
Saracens are unbeaten in the Premiership since they lost away to the Exeter Chiefs at the beginning of March. Since then, Mark McCall’s side have been on an excellent winning streak which culminated with a 62-12 thumping of Gloucester last weekend on the final day of the regular season.
Saracens welcome back their big guns for this clash and a whole new front row with Mako Vunipola, Jamie George and Vincent Koch all coming into the side. George Kruis also makes his way back into the team to partner Maro Itoje.
Perhaps most importantly, Billy Vunipola is back for Sarries and he starts at no.8 with Jackson Wray switching to openside.
Here it is!
— Saracens Rugby Club (@Saracens) May 18, 2018
Wasps welcome back Nathan Hughes to the side since he picked up a knee injury during the Six Nations. James Haskell misses out so Jack Willis and Thomas Young complete the backrow.
The Coventry-based outfit have named a dangerous back-three with Christian Wade, Willie Le Roux and Elliot Daly tasked with providing an attacking spark for Dai Young’s side.
— Wasps Rugby (@WaspsRugby) May 18, 2018
Although Wasps have a dangerous backline which can punish any team, we think Saracens have the advantage up front and we believe this will be where the game will be won or lost. We believe Mark McCall’s men to starve Wasps of possession and slow thing down considerably at the breakdown.
Exeter Chiefs v Newcastle Falcons
The Chiefs finished top of the Premiership, eight points ahead of Saracens in second place. They haven’t been beaten in the Premiership since February and they will be confident that they can retain their league crown.
However, before a potential Twickenham final date against Saracens or Wasps, they must overcome high-flying Newcastle Falcons who have surprised everyone this season.
Rob Baxter welcomes back Don Armand, Sam Simmonds, Henry Slade, Lachie Turner and Ian Whitten to their matchday 23 with only Whitten among the replacements. Jack Nowell is on the wing as a result of Slade starting at outside centre.
— Exeter Chiefs (@ExeterChiefs) May 18, 2018
Newcastle welcome back Toby Flood to the side and he will steer the ship at flyhalf after missing out through injury over the last six weeks. Premiership Player Of The Season, Vereniki Goneva, starts on the wing and the electric Sinoti Sinoti starts on the other flank.
15 Simon Hammersley
14 Vereniki Goneva
13 Chris Harris
12 Josh Matavesi
11 Sinoti Sinoti
10 Toby Flood
9 Michael Young
1 Sam Lockwood
2 Kyle Cooper
3 Scott Wilson
4 Calum Green
5 Evan Olmstead
6 Mark Wilson (captain)
7 Gary Graham
8 Ally Hogg
16 Santiago Socino
17 Rob Vickers
18 David Wilson
19 Will Witty
20 Nili Latu
21 Sonatane Takulua
22 Juan Pablo Socino
23 Alex Tait
Although the Falcons have surpassed all expectations this season, we think this will be a step too far for Dean Richards’ side. If this was at Kingston Park, we think the Falcons would have a chance but we can’t see the Chiefs, who have just lost one home game all season in the Premiership, falling at Sandy Park on this big stage.
Prediction: Exeter Chiefs
Bet Of The Weekend:
We’re going for victories for both Saracens and Exeter Chiefs on the double, but we also think the Chiefs will beat the -13.5 handicap so a £20 bet will see a return of £44.51.
See how well we’re doing in the LeoVegas Punters’ Union rugby betting league at puntersunion.leovegas.com. We’re going head-to-head with other rugby titles this season to see who can win the most rugby bets and finish top in May! Who are you betting on this weekend?