With a packed Christmas schedule of Aviva Premiership games the MaulOver Podcast boys have given us their predictions… Agree?
Friday 23rd December
Northampton v Sale
As a Christmas treat the fixture list has thrown up a festive season opener that promises to be more toilet bowl than Superbowl. Both Northampton and Sale are in the midst of a seemingly inescapable spiral into mediocrity, both team recently suffering thorough double-hidings in Europe. The Sharks at least showed some bite against Saracens, and will hope that their double ex-league strike-force of Josh Charnley and Denny Solomona will kick-on from the promise shown in that tie. Saints will welcome back some of their misfiring big guns after fielding an allegedly weakened side in Dublin, and, continuing with an attitude to health and safety in the workplace that would make a Victorian factory owner proud, hope to welcome back George North.
Ben – Draw, George- Sale by 2, Russ, Saints by 5, Phil – Sale by 5, Dougie – Sale by 12
Saturday 24th December
Saracens v Newcastle
Itoje is back, Kruis is back, Farrell is back and Mako is back. The leaders could be at full strength in the league for the first time in weeks, and will surely switch into kill mode for the visit of over achieving Newcastle. The Falcons seem to have finally found a functioning fly half, in the unlikely form of Joel Hodgson, and should at least be prepared for the vagaries of the plastic pitch at Allianz Park. But the home side have looked in no mood to be the victims of another upset since their loss at Bath.
Ben – Saracens by 24, George- Sarries by 20, Russ – Sarries by 14, Phil- Sarries by 20, Dougie – Sarries by 24
Wasps v Bath
Second versus third in what should be the tie of the round, though the hosts be wary of Bath talking the referee into next try wins if the scores are close on eighty minutes. Despite a lengthy injury list Wasps can still field the likes of Kurtley Beale and Nathan Hughes and now have Joe Launchbury back from suspension and in towering form. The visitors are finally able to field something close to their first choice pack with the return from injury of Taulupe Faletau and Francois Louw ,and, with George Ford keen to impress in order to ensure a move anywhere but Sale, will push the hosts close.
Ben – Wasps by 4, George- Wasps by 11, Russ – Wasps by 15, Phil – Wasps by 11, Dougie – Wasps by 3
Exeter v Leicester
Exeter return from Europe on something of a high after a first win in their pool. With their Cornish contingent up to strength following the return of Luke Cowan-Dickie and Jack Nowell and Henry Slade returning to his best form they will be confident of taking on all comers in Devon. Leicester will likewise take heart from a fine win at the weekend, Owen Williams, full of confidence from his monstrous last-gasp penalty and young Jack Roberts will both hope to build on a fine performances against Munster.
Ben – Exeter by 10, George- Exeter by 7, Russ – Leicester by 7, Phil – draw, Dougie – Leicester by 3
Monday 26th December
Bristol v Worcester
Fans of relegation dogfights will be well satisfied by this Boxing Day offering, particularly if Sam Ripper-Smith and Thretton Palamo go head to head in a play-off for the best name in the league. Bristol are currently showing signs of life after emerging from an Andy Robinson shaped dark cloud, with Tom Varndell fresh from a hat-trick at Pau and Jason Woodward increasingly looking a shrewd signing. Worcester lost at the Dragons last weekend and sit only a place above their rock bottom hosts. Jamie Shillcock though has shown promise at ten and will hope to unleash the dangerous Cooper Vuna and Bryce Heem.
Ben – Bristol by 5, George- Bristol by 11, Russ – Bristol by 8, Phil – Bristol by 5, Dougie – Bristol by 10
Tuesday 27th December
Harlequins v Gloucester
In what can only be described as a mid-table clash Gloucester travel to London in decent league form but coming off a heavy defeat in France. Matt Scott will hope to add to his fine try-scoring record for the season and Jonny May, free from his scrummaging responsibilities, will form a pacey dual threat on the wings with Charlie Sharples. Harlequins are a different prospect at home, most recently in a heroic dismantling the Romanian league champions. With Jamie Roberts coming off a hat-trick and Joe Marler taking a break from his social media duties they will be confident of continuing their record.
Ben – Harlequins by 7, George- Quins by 9, Russ – Gloucester by 8, Phil – Glos by 2, Dougie – Quins by 8.