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English Premiership weekend preview: Sarries seek a perfect 10

Article originally published on 22.12.22

The English Premiership rolls on over Christmas and there are five games to look forward to between Friday and Tuesday.

There are plenty of plotlines, with the top two, Saracens and Sale, both in action on Friday, while Leicester start life without Steve Borthwick on Saturday at home to Gloucester. 

In the last of the five Round 10 matches, external reasons mean Harlequins fans will have to wait for Big Game 14 but they still have an eminently winnable clash against Bristol to look forward to on Tuesday.

Sarries out to continue perfect start

What: London Irish v Saracens 
Where: Gtech Community Stadium 
When: 19:45, Friday 23rd December 
How to watch: PRTV Live 
Odds: London Irish 3/1, Tie 25/1, Saracens 1/4

A long flight home from South Africa is hardly the ideal preparation for taking on the Premiership leaders but that's what faces London Irish on Friday when Saracens make the 12 mile trip down the A406. 

Irish went down 34-14 to the Stormers last Saturday, while Sarries beat Lyon 28-20 and remain unbeaten this season with 11 wins from as many outings. 

They are also boosted by the return of Nick Isiekwe in the second row, while Alex Goode comes in at full-back, with Elliot Daly switching to the centres to cover for the suspended Alex Lozowski. 

Saracens' record speaks for itself and their star-studded side should have too much for the Exiles, who sit second bottom of the standings. 

However, Declan Kidney's team did win the pair's last meeting 32-30 back in February and have Ollie Hassell-Collins to call on. 

The wing has scored eight tries this season, matched only by Saracens' Max Malins. 

Hassell-Collins is 6/5 in the Anytime Tryscorers market, with Malins 21/20, but the latter might have his opportunities limited. Should Malins be benched, former Exile Alex Lewington could shine at 20/21 in the same market. 

That just shows the depth Saracens have and 1/1 on Saracens to Score First & Win in the Score First / Full Time market might prove handy as they look to make it 10 from 10 in the league. 

Sharks can bounce back

What: Newcastle v Sale 
Where: Kingston Park 
When: 19:45, Friday 23rd December 
How to watch: PRTV Live 
Odds: Newcastle 6/4, Tie 20/1, Sale 4/7

Newcastle against Sale has been a festive regular in the Premiership over the years and the Falcons will be hoping for some Christmas cheer as they target just a third home league win of the season. 

History suggests that is a real possibility, with the home side having triumphed on the last seven occasions these sides have met. 

In fact, Sale have not won on Tyneside since 2016, but are a far steelier outfit this season and Alex Sanderson's good work since taking over in 2021 is coming to fruition, with them winning seven out of nine in the Premiership. 

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Last Sunday's 45-19 Champions Cup defeat in Toulouse will have been a blow but the Sharks will feel they can get back on track at Kingston Park. 

Discipline has been an issue for Newcastle this season, with their average of 13.1 penalties conceded per game the highest in the league. 

With Sale fly-half Rob de Preez the competition's highest points scorer on 102, there is a clear advantage for the visitors. 

On the back of an arduous few weeks, Sanderson has understandably chosen to rotate for this match. However, his South Africa number 10's ability to keep the scoreboard ticking over means the 10/11 price on the -4.5 Handicap handed to Sale in the Game Betting 2-Way could prove tempting for punters.

Home comforts could help the Chiefs

What: Exeter v Bath 
Where: Sandy Park 
When: 15:00, Saturday 24th December 
How to watch: PRTV Live 
Odds: Exeter 1/5, Tie 33/1, Bath 7/2

Exeter's summer coaching reshuffle is still to really pay dividends but they will feel they have the tools to better Bath at Sandy Park on Saturday. 

The visitors are joint-bottom for tackle success this season and have lost a league-worst 16 per cent of the scrums on their own ball. 

Ollie Lawrence's arrival from Worcester has added physicality to the back-line, while the flair stocks will be boosted in the summer when Finn Russell arrives. 

However, that is someway off and while Bath won their last away game at Newcastle, they have struggled on the road. 

Meanwhile, the seventh-placed Chiefs, who sit a place and three points above the Blue, Black, and Whites, have won only one of their last five Premiership matches. 

However, they smashed the Bulls 44-14 in the Champions Cup last Saturday and lost just one of this duo's last 12 meetings. 

That is perhaps why they have been given a -11 Handicap in the Game Betting 3-Way market, and odds of 10/11 to overcome it.

Tigers tackle a fresh start

What: Leicester v Gloucester 
Where: Welford Road 
When: 15:00, Saturday 24th December 
How to watch: BT Sport 1 
Odds: Leicester 2/5, Tie 20/1, Gloucester 21/10

Steve Borthwick's departure to coach England means Leicester begin a new era on Saturday when Gloucester visit. 

The Cherry and Whites have won just one of the last seven meetings and their record gets worse when you look at their results at Welford Road, where they have failed to win any of their last 14 visits. 

Coach George Skivington, who previously played for Leicester, has seen his side win just twice away from home in the Premiership in 2022/23 and rested a host of stars for last Friday's 57-0 Champions Cup mauling at Leinster. 

Leicester, meanwhile, beat Clermont 23-16 in Borthwick's last game in charge and will hope for something similar in interim boss Richard Wigglesworth's maiden match at the helm. 

With just one defeat at home since June 2021, the 39-year-old, who retired from playing this week to focus on his coaching duties, may well get his wish and his side seem well set at 10/11 with a -7 Handicap in the Game Betting 3-Way.

A big match but not the Big Match

What: Harlequins v Bristol 
Where: Twickenham Stoop 
When: 16:15, Tuesday 27th December 
How to watch: BT Sport 1 
Odds: Harlequins 2/7, Tie 25/1, Bristol 11/4

Harlequins' traditional festive fixture at Twickenham has been switched back to the Stoop but the atmosphere across the road from HQ when Bristol visit on Tuesday is still likely to be electric. 

Quins have won their last four Premiership games and are fresh from an impressive 14-10 Champions Cup victory over Racing Metro. 

Bristol also won in Europe at the weekend, taking out Zebre 35-19 in the Challenge Cup, but have not succeeded domestically since September and currently sit rock bottom of the Premiership. 

This could be a cracker, with the three most recent contests between these two seeing a minimum of six tries and 67 points scored. 

While Marcus Smith's absence may bring that tally down, half-back partner-in-crime Danny Care will look to impress after signing a new deal on Wednesday. 

Add in the news that blockbuster centre Semi Radradra is back in the frame for the Bears and the points could still flow, but Bristol's record of one away win since October 2021, coupled with Quins' current form, hints at a home victory. 

Therefore, the 10/11 for a -9 Handicap in Game Betting 3-Way may not prove insurmountable.

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