Simon Mail previews the second weekend of the Premiership season and expects Saracens to maintain their winning start to the campaign...
"This looks the pick of the second weekend's matches with both teams coming in off impressive wins. Saracens have lost just twice in their last 15 clashes against Bath and can extend this record with another victory."
Sale v Newcastle
Live on BT Sport 2
Sale are looking for their first win of the season after falling to an entertaining defeat at Wasps in their season opener. The Sharks scored five tries at last year's Premiership finalists but were still beaten 50-35. Steve Diamond was frustrated with their defending but will have been encouraged by the way in which his side cut open one of the best sides in the competition.
Newcastle got off the mark on the opening night after a dominant 35-8 home win over Worcester. The bonus-point victory gave the Falcons the ideal start to the campaign. Newcastle's success suggests Dean Richards' team should have more than enough quality to steer clear of a relegation battle. This game hands them an opportunity to win a fourth successive Premiership match - a feat the team have not achieved for eight years.
The Sharks will know the importance of claiming a victory at the AJ Bell Stadium and the hosts have the attacking talent to take the points. Sale have lost just one of the last seven meetings between the teams but it was exceptionally tight back in February. If this match is too close to call, a better bet may be to back Denny Solomona to score for the hosts. The wing crossed the line last weekend and scored 12 tries following his arrival in the second half of last season including against Newcastle.
Bath v Saracens
Live on BT Sport 3
Bath made an excellent start to the season after upsetting the odds to clinch a rare win at Leicester. The visitors played the closing stages at Welford Road down to 13 men but held off a late challenge from the Tigers to win 27-23. Their away record let them down last season and cost them as Bath missed out on a top-four finish. But Todd Blackadder's side will be a genuine threat in the Premiership this year if they can replicate their performance from last weekend.
Saracens came up short domestically last season but the Men in Black are favourites to win the title and their first win was a warning to their rivals. Sarries scored nine tries including a hat-trick from Sean Maitland, as they dismantled Northampton in a 55-24 trouncing at Twickenham. It was an ominous result and underlines why Mark McCall's European champions are still considered the team to beat.
This looks the pick of the second weekend's matches with both teams coming in off impressive wins. Saracens have lost just twice in their last 15 clashes against Bath and can extend this record with another victory. Bath are dangerous opponents and have suffered only one league defeat at the Rec in 2017 so the hosts should prove a handful. But Saracens' strength in depth could make the difference if Bath tire during the second half and the visitors are tipped to win by up to 12 points.
Back Saracens to win by 1-12 points at [2.8]
Northampton v Leicester
Live on BT Sport 3
It may be only one week into the new season but this weekend's clash between Northampton and Leicester has already taken on increased significance after both sides were beaten in their first match. The Saints suffered a thumping defeat against Saracens which underlined the problems facing the side. Northampton finished seventh last season and their humiliating loss at Twickenham will be a big concern for their supporters.
Leicester also fell to defeat after a surprise loss at home to Bath. Matt O'Connor's side paid the price for a sluggish start and left it too late to rescue the match. The prospect of losing for the second game in a row will not be acceptable for the Tigers with pressure on last season's semi-finalists to get back on track. But motivation will not be in short supply against a team they have enjoyed consistent success in recent years.
The Tigers played Northampton three times last season and all of them ended in wins by no more than eight points. Leicester have won their last seven matches in all competitions against the Saints so there is no doubt they have a mental edge over them. The visitors appear to have more in their favour and are backed to pile the misery on Northampton by edging to yet another narrow victory over their East Midlands rivals.
Back Leicester to win by 1-12 points at [2.9]
Worcester v Wasps
Live on BT Sport 1
Worcester endured a miserable start to the campaign after a heavy defeat at Newcastle which suggests it will be a long season for the Warriors. London Irish's opening win has boosted the newly-promoted side and Worcester could face a difficult challenge avoiding relegation. Director of rugby Gary Gold was dismayed by his side's performance and will demand a big response in their first home match of the season.
Wasps came agonisingly close to winning the title last season after their extra-time final defeat to Exeter and the team are expected to contend again for the Premiership. Dai Young's side were in blistering form last weekend as four tries from Dan Robson helped them brush aside Sale at the Ricoh Arena. Their attacking qualities were too much for their opponents as they scored 50 points in a convincing win.
The Warriors will have to produce something very special to shock Wasps and the visitors have the attacking firepower to overwhelm the hosts. With six successive league wins over Worcester, everything points towards another victory for Wasps. In this fixture last season, Wasps won 26-12 and the favourites look worth supporting to cover a 13-point handicap at Sixways.
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2017/18 Rugby P/L