Premiership: Saracens to maintain winning start with Gloucester victory
Simon Mail previews the latest Premiership action including Newcastle v Exeter and Saracens v Gloucester...
"Saracens have started their Premiership title defence in style with three successive wins and Mark McCall's side have not even peaked yet."
Newcastle v Exeter
Live on BT Sport 1
Newcastle enjoyed an exceptional last season reaching the Premiership semi-finals after finishing in the top four. Dean Richards' side were the surprise package but the Falcons are already finding it tougher to match higher expectations this season. Newcastle lost their opening two games but got off the mark last weekend after edging to a 23-20 win at Worcester.
Exeter lost in the final last season and the Chiefs have made a superb start to the campaign as they chase a second Premiership title. Rob Baxter's side have taken maximum points from all three games with bonus-point wins over Leicester, Wasps and Sale. Their form is ominous already and it would be a surprise if Exeter failed to finish in the top two.
Newcastle will have their hands full in this match and the visitors are fancied to maintain their 100 per cent record this season. Exeter have so many scoring threats and it will be difficult for the Falcons to keep them at bay over the course of the 80 minutes. Newcastle managed to stay within 12 points of Saracens on the opening weekend and Exeter may have to settle for a narrow victory at Kingston Park.
Sale v Wasps
Live on BT Sport 3
It has been a challenging start to the season for Sale with Steve Diamond's side losing two of their opening three games. The Sharks won their home game against Worcester but were beaten away to Harlequins and early pacesetters Exeter. Sale have relied on their form at the AJ Bell Stadium in recent years and have lost just once there since February.
Wasps have won two of their opening three matches as they bid to launch another top-four challenge this season. Dai Young's side were fortunate to win by one point in their first match at Worcester before suffering a home defeat against Exeter. But Wasps held off Leicester last weekend in their entertaining 41-35 home win.
This looks a tight encounter with Wasps narrow favourites to prevail but their record at Sale is poor. The Sharks have only lost once since 2005 at home to Wasps and have beaten them in the last four clashes in front of their fans. Hosts Sale are handed a three-point handicap advantage and this looks worth taking in a fixture which has been kind to them.
Saracens v Gloucester
Live on BT Sport 1
Saracens have started their Premiership title defence in style with three successive wins and Mark McCall's side have not even peaked yet. The Men in Black have already seen off Newcastle, Bristol and most recently Northampton after a 38-27 victory at Franklin's Gardens. Their form has already suggested it could be a two-way tussle between them and Exeter at the summit.
Gloucester may have something to say about this although realistically the Cherry and Whites would be delighted with a top-four finish. Johan Ackermann's side remain unbeaten this season after wins over Northampton and Bristol alongside a 31-31 draw at rivals Bath. The arrival of Danny Cipriani has certainly added to their attacking ability and enhanced them - even if he has not done enough to impress England boss Eddie Jones.
This will undoubtedly prove Gloucester's toughest test yet and Saracens are expected to assert their authority by maintaining their 100 per cent record this season. But the Cherry and Whites certainly appear to have developed this season and are not expected to cave in. Two of Saracens' first three wins have been by 11 points and there could be value in backing the champions to win by up to 12 points against improving opponents.
Follow Simon's bets on Twitter @watfordtipster
P/L 2018-19 season