The latest round of Premiership games take place this weekend and Simon Mail previews matches including Exeter v Harlequins and Worcester v Gloucester...
"This looks a tightly contested match although Gloucester's superior quality could prove decisive. Worcester were beaten at Kingsholm 36-16 back in December although the hosts can keep it closer this time."
Sale can make home advantage count
Sale v Bath
Live on BT Sport 1
Sale host Bath this weekend with both teams still holding outside chances of finishing in the top four of the Premiership. The Sharks are ninth but only six points off fourth-placed Harlequins with three games remaining. Sale have won their last two home league games but were knocked out of the European Challenge Cup after their 24-20 semi-final defeat in La Rochelle last weekend.
Bath are one point and place above their opponents heading into this match. The club are looking for a new director of rugby after Todd Blackadder confirmed he will become head coach at Japanese side Toshiba at the end of this season. Bath were beaten 27-23 by rivals Gloucester in their last match but are boosted by the return of full-back Anthony Watson, after being out for 13 months due to an Achilles injury.
Sale's best results have come at the AJ Bell Stadium and the hosts are fancied to edge out Bath. The Sharks' only home defeat in the Premiership since the end of September came against leaders Exeter. Bath have been poor travellers with only one away victory since September in all competitions. Sale are backed to hold off their opponents in a tight contest to keep their hopes of a semi-final spot alive.
Chiefs to get back on track
Exeter v Harlequins
Live on BT Sport 2
Exeter have already clinched a home semi-final and the league leaders are close to securing top spot. The Chiefs have been exceptionally consistent this season, with 15 victories from their 19 matches. Exeter suffered a rare blip in their last match, losing 26-19 at home to Wasps, but it would be a surprise if they did not bounce back.
Harlequins are holding on to fourth spot in the division although their recent dip in form could prove costly if they fail to put together a few wins to end the regular season. Paul Gustard's side have lost their last four matches in the Premiership which has cut their advantage over fifth to just three points. Quins were beaten 20-19 at home to Northampton in their last league game before losing their Challenge Cup semi-final at Clermont Auvergne 32-27.
Exeter paid the price for a lack of focus against Wasps but the team are not expected to suffer a slump and should respond with a win against Harlequins at Sandy Park. The Chiefs' last three home wins have come by at least 18 points and the hosts are fancied to respond to their surprise loss with a determined effort. Exeter are backed to cover an 11-point handicap against a Harlequins side struggling for form.
Saracens set for more success
Wasps v Saracens
Live on BT Sport 2
It has been a disappointing campaign for Wasps but Dai Young's side still have a chance of redeeming themselves by finishing in the top four. Wasps have lost ten of their 19 Premiership matches although back-to-back victories have taken them up to fifth and within three points of Harlequins. A 28-16 win at home to Worcester was followed by their first ever win at Sandy Park against Exeter.
Saracens make a swift return to the Ricoh Arena after their European Champions Cup semi-final win over Munster last weekend. Mark McCall's side reached the final after a 32-16 victory, leaving a European and Premiership double a realistic target. Saracens are second in the Premiership with an eight-point cushion over third. Their recent league form has been patchy though with the 23-21 loss at Bristol their fourth defeat in eight games.
Wasps need a strong finish to the season if they are to sneak into the semi-finals but will have their hands full against the European finalists. Saracens have a strong record at the Ricoh Arena with last weekend's win their fourth victory in their last five visits. Buoyed by their Champions Cup success, Saracens are fancied to consolidate second place by covering a one-point handicap against Wasps.
Gloucester could have edge
Worcester v Gloucester
Live on BT Sport 1
Worcester have the upper hand in their battle with Newcastle to avoid relegation but still have work to do. The Warriors are seven points clear of the bottom side with three games left in their bid to maintain their top-flight status. With two wins in their last three league matches, Worcester have boosted their chances of staying up. A 39-17 home win over Sale has given them momentum heading into this fixture.
Gloucester are close to clinching third place in the Premiership with a significant ten-point advantage over Harlequins. The Cherry and Whites have found their form heading towards the business end of the season with four successive victories. In their last game, Gloucester fought back from 17-0 down to defeat Bath in their derby clash.
This looks a tightly contested match although Gloucester's superior quality could prove decisive. Worcester were beaten at Kingsholm 36-16 back in December although the hosts can keep it closer this time. Gloucester have claimed an impressive 29-7 win at Harlequins and a 41-30 victory at Northampton in their last two away matches. The visitors can keep their winning run going by covering a two-point handicap at Sixways.
Follow Simon's bets on Twitter @watfordtipster
P/L 2018-19 season