Premiership Immortals - The Debate ShowAug 29
Round 18 of the Gallagher Premiership begins on Friday night with a huge West Country derby before four more unmissable matches across the weekend.
Read on for all you need to know about how to watch selected games on BT Sport, plus live stream information and TV channel times.
Friday 24 February
Bath vs Bristol: BT Sport 1 & Ultimate, 7pm (7.45pm KO) - Live stream
The Gallagher Premiership weekend begins with a huge West Country derby between Bath and Bristol at the Rec.
Bath are propping up the table with only four wins all season and were insipid and ill-disciplined in defeat at home to London Irish last week.
Johann van Graan’s side were particularly flat in a dismal second half that saw both Fergus Lee-Warner and Ben Spencer sent to the sin-bin.
Poor discipline and an inconsistent line-out has beset Bath in recent months and they will still be without several injured players on Friday including Alfie Barbeary and Ted Hill.
Bristol have also struggled this season but they moved off the foot of the table thanks to victory over Newcastle Falcons in torrential rain at Ashton Gate last time out.
England scrum-half Harry Randall scored twice with Chris Vui and the impressive flanker Fitz Harding also touching down to secure a much-needed bonus point.
Charles Piutau features for the first time since December in a major boost for the visitors who also have four wins this season.
“Everyone is fired up for Friday,” said Bath flanker Miles Reid. “You feel the buzz in the city building up to it.”
With bragging rights and the chance to finish the weekend above their greatest rivals in the table up for grabs, Friday’s showdown is shaping up to be an unmissable encounter.
Saturday 25 February
After suffering just a second Premiership defeat of the season last weekend, leaders Saracens return against a Newcastle side they have a formidable record against.
They have won their last 24 meetings with the Falcons and haven’t lost to them since February 2009. Saracens have also won their last 14 home league games and are overwhelming favourites to return to winning ways on Saturday.
Mark McCall’s side came up against an inspired Leicester defence at Welford Road on Sunday and were perhaps unfortunate to lose with another remarkable comeback snuffed out by some heroic last-ditch resistance.
It was ultimately a slow start that cost them in a repeat of last season’s final, with early tries from Handre Pollard, Cameron Henderson and Mike Brown leaving them with a mountain to climb.
Newcastle, who picked up former Glasgow and Wasps lock forward Kiran McDonald on a two-year deal this week, are enduring another tough season.
Only Bath are keeping them off the bottom of the table and they were comfortably beaten by fellow strugglers Bristol in their last outing.
With just five wins to their name all season and a leaky defence that has seen them concede at least two tries in their last 32 league games, there has not been much cause for optimism at Kingston Park.
Recent form and history points to a convincing home win as Saracens look to tighten their grip on a home semi-final.
Northampton welcome Gloucester to fortress Franklin’s Gardens as the Premiership action continues on Saturday afternoon.
Saints have won 10 of their last 11 home matches and they exhibited their dazzling attacking talent with a sensational comeback win over Sale last week to move up to third.
17 points down at half-time, the hosts roared to a rousing 38-34 win that will have had the rest of the league taking notice and the top two looking over their shoulders.
“We’ve got the ability to score tries, but we have to be better defensively,” was director of rugby Phil Dowson’s assessment after the remarkable game which encapsulated their enterprising playing style.
Gloucester are a point and a place behind their hosts in fourth and make the trip to Northampton after edging Harlequins in a tight contest at Kingsholm.
Ollie Thorley was instrumental and the England wing is playing some of the best rugby of his career as the Cherry and Whites look to boost their play-off credentials after narrowly missing out last year. Argentine Santiago Carreras also impressed at 10, taking home another man-of-the-match award.
Their set piece has been an area of strength and the news that loosehead prop Val Rapava-Ruskin has signed a contract extension is a huge boost.
The race for the play-offs is remarkably close and London Irish and Leicester will be looking to further their chances when they meet on Saturday evening at Gtech Community Stadium.
Irish are fifth, one point ahead of defending champions Leicester and they saw off struggling Bath last week with fly-half Paddy Jackson scoring 15 of their 25 points.
They have lost at home only once in the Premiership this season and are the league’s most efficient attacking side. The Exiles have scored a try or won a penalty 62% of the time they have breached the opposition 22-metre line.
Their backs have caught the eye – although Ben White will be on Six Nations duty this weekend – but they also boast considerable strength up front with back-rower Tom Pearson standing out.
Leicester ended a three-match losing streak with a hard-fought victory over Saracens last weekend, made possible by some superhuman defensive sets in the second half.
Tigers, who appointed Australia forwards coach Dan McKellar as their head coach for the 2023-24 season, fielded a vastly experienced backline with ex-England full-back Mike Brown scoring on his debut aged 37.
With Chris Ashton, Jimmy Gopperth and Ben Youngs still featuring, interim boss Richard Wigglesworth will hope experience can see his side over the line against Irish and guide them into the top four.
Sunday 26 February
Exeter Chiefs vs Sale Sharks: BT Sport 1 & Ultimate, 12.30pm (1pm KO) - Live stream
The Premiership weekend concludes at Sandy Park as Exeter, firmly ensconced in the play-off tussle, host second-placed Sale.
It has been over a month since Exeter last played in the Premiership, a 24-17 win over Gloucester before they enjoyed a week off in Round 17.
They remain well-placed in sixth with a game in hand over all of the teams above them in the table and are only four points adrift of Northampton in third.
Director of rugby Rob Baxter this week said there is “no truth” to rumours linking Ospreys centre Joe Hawkins with the club which would see him join Wales teammates Dafydd Jenkins and Christ Tshiunza.
They will be looking to pick up where they left off before their extended break against a Sale outfit who are looking good for a home semi-final despite defeat last week.
Centre Manu Tuilagi is suspended after being hit with a four-game ban for an elbow to the head of Tommy Freeman, but George Ford is set to feature after being cut from the England squad.
Their 14 men couldn’t halt Northampton’s onslaught last week and they will be targeting an immediate response after squandering a considerable lead at Franklin’s Gardens.
Victory would strengthen Sale’s top-two chances, while defeat could bring them closer to the chasing pack in what feels like a pivotal moment in a fascinating season.