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England stars line up for thrilling Premiership dash

England stars line up for thrilling Premiership dash
  • Ten teams can still make the Gallagher Premiership Rugby semi-finals ahead of the last two rounds of action
  • Joe Launchbury returns from injury for Wasps, while Anthony Watson plays at The Rec for the first time in more than a year

With just two rounds to go in Gallagher Premiership Rugby, there are still ten sides in contention to claim the overall title.

Exeter Chiefs, Saracens and Gloucester Rugby have all already booked their place in the semi-finals but behind them is a stacked starting grid ready to rev their engines ahead of the last dash to the finish line.

Northampton Saints are in pole position to grab fourth but Harlequins, Sale Sharks, Wasps, Bath, Bristol Bears and Worcester Warriors have hope of ruining their party, ahead of a thrilling final two rounds.

There are plenty of Guinness Six Nation star on show, all desperate to propel their clubs over the line. Here are a few things to look out for:

Wasps Launch Joe

Despite a slightly rocky campaign, Wasps remain in contention and have been boosted by the return of England lock Joe Launchbury for Sunday’s trip to Bath Rugby.

The powerful second row, who featured four times during the 2019 Championship, missed last weekend’s defeat to Saracens with a calf injury but is back alongside James Gaskell in the engine room of Wasps’ side.

Nathan Hughes adds further international pedigree from No.8, with Wasps in desperate need of a win to keep their hopes alive.

“Both games remaining are of huge significance now in terms of where we finish at the end of the season,” said director of rugby Dai Young.

“There’s not much between us and Bath but we’ve just got to turn up on the day. We have to make sure we have that passion, desire and commitment, which should be a given. “

Watson to make Rec return

The Rec will be able to welcome back Anthony Watson after he made his comeback in last weekend’s loss at Sale Sharks.

The England full-back is set for his 99th club appearance and features in a back line that also stars England colleague Jonathan Joseph and 94-capped Wales centre Jamie Roberts.

Beno Obano starts at prop while England’s Sam Underhill and Zach Mercer start in the back row.

Quins seek momentum

For so long it looked like Harlequins were going to stroll into the final top four spot but a poor run of form has seem them fall away somewhat.

On Friday they host Leicester Tigers, one of only two sides who know they will not be in the top four.

Paul Gustard, England’s defence coach during their 2016 Grand Slam and 2017 Championship win, has recalled veteran scrum-half Danny Care, as well as flying centre Joe Marchant to aid the cause.

On the opposite side of the pitch, England duo George Ford and Jonny May start at fly-half and wing respectively while Dan Cole will look to provide muscle from the pack for the Tigers.

Bears charging late

For much of the season, Bristol Bears’ priority was staying up rather than looking up but if they beat Sale Sharks on Friday night then they could start to dream.

That is easier said than done however, with Sale boasting England wing Chris Ashton – a veteran of 20 international tries.

Bristol sit ninth in the table, so reaching the top might be beyond them, but the Sharks are sixth and three points outside the top four.

“I think our vision has given us that opportunity to really show what we can do as a group, and it’s given us real excitement and focus for the season and for Friday night,” Bears director of rugby Pat Lam said.