Premiership Rugby: Wasps can edge past title rivals Exeter
Simon Mail previews the second weekend of Premiership action which includes Wasps v Exeter and the derby between Bath and Gloucester...
"This looks an intriguing tussle between two title contenders but home advantage could tip it in Wasps' favour. The hosts have only lost once at the Ricoh Arena in the Premiership since last October and this came against champions Saracens."
Northampton v Harlequins
Live on BT Sport 1
Harlequins can keep it close
This weekend's first match brings together two clubs looking to rebuild after huge disappointment last season. Northampton suffered a dramatic fall from grace last year and the Saints have brought in head coach Chris Boyd to arrest the slide. Northampton lost their Premiership opener last weekend after conceding 21 penalties during their 27-16 defeat at Gloucester.
Harlequins are also aiming to return towards the top of the domestic game after a forgettable season which saw them finish tenth. Former England defence coach Paul Gustard has taken on the challenge at Quins and the new head of rugby steered his side to a convincing 51-23 win over Sale in their first match. Six tries, including two from Ben Tapuai, clinched the bonus-point success.
Boyd is likely to help Northampton improve, although it may take time for him to adapt to the English game. The Saints' lack of discipline was costly last weekend and the hosts may find it difficult to break clear of Harlequins. Gustard has extensive experience of the Premiership and his side, off the back of a promising start, look worth backing with a five-point handicap advantage.
Wasps v Exeter
Live on BT Sport 3
Wasps fancied to sneak tight victory
Wasps reached the Premiership semi-finals last season and Dai Young's side should again be among the contenders for the title. In their league opener, Wasps were pushed all the way by Worcester as they edged to a 21-20 victory. It was certainly not a vintage display from them but it was a hard-earned win for the Premiership challengers.
Exeter lost in last season's Premiership final against Saracens but the Chiefs made an ominous start to the new campaign as they bid to reclaim the trophy. Rob Baxter's side thrashed Leicester 40-6 as they picked up a bonus-point success. The 2016-17 champions could take some stopping again this season and have become one of the most consistent teams in the country.
This looks an intriguing tussle between two title contenders but home advantage could tip it in Wasps' favour. The hosts have only lost once at the Ricoh Arena in the Premiership since last October and this came against champions Saracens. Wasps also defeated Exeter at home last season and there appears to be value to side with the slight outsiders to prevail again.
Bath v Gloucester
Live on BT Sport 3
Cherry and Whites may take derby honours
Bath suffered a disappointing start to the season last weekend after losing at newly-promoted Bristol Bears. Todd Blackadder's side put themselves in a position to win the match but mistakes cost them as the hosts claimed a 17-10 victory. Bath have won just two of their last seven games in the competition.
Gloucester played well at times last season but their lack of consistency scuppered their chances of finishing in the top four. The Cherry and Whites have done some excellent business this summer and the arrival of Danny Cipriani has already made an impact after the England international set up a try in their home win over Northampton.
The West Country derby always has an extra edge but Gloucester appear well-placed to take their momentum into this match and add to the hosts' problems. Bath were unimpressive in their opening defeat and still have plenty of problems to resolve. Gloucester made an encouraging start and Johan Ackermann's side merit support with a three-point head start.
Sale v Worcester
Live on BT Sport 1
Sharks' strength at home should pay off
Sale made an inauspicious start to the campaign last weekend after their heavy defeat at Harlequins. Steve Diamond was critical of his team after they fell away in the second half following a close opening 40 minutes. The Sharks relied on their home form last season and will be expected to get off the mark at the AJ Bell Stadium.
Worcester came into this season as favourites for relegation due mainly to Bristol's ambitious spending following their promotion. The Warriors finished second bottom last season and could face a tougher challenge to retain their top-flight status this time around. Worcester played well against Wasps in their opener but were still edged out by one point.
After a poor start last week, this looks the ideal opportunity for Sale to get back on track with a first win. Worcester have not won at the Sharks for ten years and have claimed just one victory in the last nine league clashes. The visitors will be competitive, as they were in their narrow loss to Wasps, but Sale should come out on top with a win by up to 12 points recommended.
Follow Simon's bets on Twitter @watfordtipster
P/L 2017-18 season