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Premiership Rugby preview: Sale can hurt Harlequins

This weekend's eighth round of Premiership fixtures is the final batch before the Champions Cup and Challenge Cup get underway.

What better time than now for teams to grab a victory and to set themselves up for the busy festive period? 

That is certainly the case for bottom side Newcastle, who are still to win in 2023/24, while Bristol and Gloucester, eighth and ninth respectively, have each lost their last five. Those two meet on Saturday, while the Falcons close out the round at Leicester on Sunday.

Saturday's other games see impressive duo Bath and Exeter clash at The Rec, while champions Saracens could play out a classic against an incredibly attacking Northampton side. 

However, the opening match of the round could be the best of the bunch, with the leaders heading south to take on a team with plenty to prove.

Sale set to add to Harlequins' woes

WhatHarlequins v Sale
WhereTwickenham Stoop, Twickenham
When19:45, Friday 1st December
How to watchTNT Sports 1
OddsHarlequins 4/7, Draw 20/1, Sale 6/4

What a way to start the round, as leaders Sale head to the capital to face a Harlequins side aiming to stem a run of two straight defeats. 

Quins were outmuscled in their 38-10 home defeat to Saracens and were then outmanoeuvred in last Friday's 36-33 reverse at free-flowing Northampton. 

After winning four of their first five matches, Harlequins' recent struggles have prompted fresh doubts about the same old issues, with the Stoop club failing to front up when it matters. 

By contrast, Sale ground out an 11-9 victory over Bath last weekend, their fourth win in a row, with George Ford expertly guiding them around the field. 

Ford was still sidelined with his Achilles injury when the Sharks won 24-16 on last season's victory at the Stoop, their third win in as many visits to the ground in all competitions. 

Robert Du Preez was in the 10 shirt that day but looks just as comfortable playing outside Ford at 13. With those two acting in tandem, plus a powerful pack, the Sharks look a value price at 6/4

Northampton can push Saracens in a thriller

WhatSaracens v Northampton
WhereStoneX Stadium, Hendon-Mill Hill
When16:30, Saturday 2nd December 
How to watchTNT Sports 1
OddsSaracens 1/8, Tie 33/1, Northampton 5/1

The South West teams currently cannot seem to get away from each other and there are two more derbies on Saturday. 

Something has to give at 14:00, when Bristol and Gloucester, who have both lost their last five games, meet at Ashton Gate. 

The pressure is on coaches Pat Lam and George Skivington but the Bears' pack might have the edge on the Gloucester forwards and it makes sense that they are 10/11 carrying a -8 handicap. 

Similarly, Bath will look to use home advantage against an impressive young Exeter side, who finally claimed their first away win of the season last Sunday at Newcastle. 

Bath were unlucky at Sale and with Finn Russell running things, can get the better of the Chiefs, with the hosts 10/11 on -8. 

The game of the day is a repeat of one of last season's semi-finals as Saracens host Northampton. Sarries ran out the 38-15 victors on that occasion and have carried the flamboyance they started to show last season into the current campaign, with them the league's second-highest points scorers behind Exeter. 

The champions' attacking improvement has arguably hampered their defence but five wins in a row shows that they are starting to motor. 

However, the Saints cannot be discounted after winning four of their last five. Their defence was an issue last season, but summer coaching recruit Lee Radford has clearly tightened things up. 

Even so, Sarries' sheer star power gives them an edge, although Northampton +13 might be worth backing at 1/1 in what could be a sensational game.

No joy for Newcastle at Welford Road

WhatLeicester v Newcastle
WhereWelford Road, Leicester
When15:00, Sunday 3rd December
How to watchTNT Sports 1
OddsLeicester 1/25, Draw 50/1, Newcastle 9/1

Newcastle are seven from seven this season, but not in a good way. The Falcons' spirited performance in their 20-14 defeat to Exeter signalled their seventh defeat of the campaign and things are unlikely to get any better at Leicester on Sunday. 

After losing to Quins, the Tigers beat Northampton 26-17 and backed it up with last Saturday's brilliant 38-20 victory at Gloucester. 

New boss Dan McKellar's early issues as he introduced his more open style of play appear to have abated and the Tigers will look at Newcastle as easy prey. The pair have already met this season, Leicester winning 60-7 in the Premiership Rugby Cup and, while the deficit may not be the same, the outcome could be. 

While Newcastle are improving, so are Leicester, and the 10/11 on a -20 handicap for the hosts looks like a realistic outcome. 

This article was written by a partner sports writer via Spotlight Sports Group. All odds displayed on this page were correct at the time of writing and are subject to withdrawal or change at any time.

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