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Gallagher Premiership: Five key head-to-heads to watch out for this weekend

The Gallagher Premiership returned with a bang last weekend, but round 16 promises to deliver even more high quality rugby! 

We begin the weekend’s action on Friday night, as second-place Bath take on third-place Saracens at the Rec. We then venture to Welford Road on Saturday, as Leicester Tigers take on the red hot Bristol Bears. This is shortly followed by the headline game this weekend, as Harlequins take on Northampton Saints at Twickenham.

On Sunday, we kick things off at Kingsholm as Gloucester face West Country rivals Exeter Chiefs, and rounding off the weekend Newcastle Falcons take on Sale Sharks.

There are also plenty of fascinating head-to-head clashes across the weekend. England spots are on the line, international superstars squaring off, and promising youngsters vying to showcase what they are about.

With that in mind, here are five key head-to-heads to watch out for this weekend.

Gallagher Premiership: Five key head-to-heads to watch out for this weekend

Bath Rugby vs Saracens: Sam Underhill vs Ben Earl

This head-to-head at the Rec will likely define the outcome of the game. Sam Underhill and Ben Earl were key parts of England’s back-row in the Six Nations, however they will square off opposite each other this weekend. Underhill is a textbook number 7, making plenty of tackles and is a real nuisance in the breakdown too. He will have his work cut out this weekend though, as Saracens counterpart Earl has quickly become one of the best ball carriers in the world, and is equally as good in the breakdown too. It promises to be a titanic clash between the pair tonight!

Leicester Tigers vs Bristol Bears: Jack van Poortvliet vs Harry Randall

Another weekend, another battle between two nines vying for an England spot. Jack van Poortvliet is looking for his best form following a return to injury, and will be keen to make a mark this weekend after being bested by Northampton counterpart Alex Mitchell last time out. On the flip side, Harry Randall is arguably the form nine in the Premiership, and is at the heart of the Bristol Bears resurgence. Both will be after a seat on the plane to Japan and New Zealand this summer, so will need to lay down a marker against one of their main competitors this weekend.

Harlequins vs Northampton Saints: Marcus Smith vs Fin Smith

From one half-back clash to another. “Smith squared”, as Danny Care described it, is probably the most hotly anticipated match up this weekend. The pair were both involved for England over the Six Nations, however when fit Marcus held the edge over Fin. Since returning to club action though, both fly-halves have both been playing some brilliant rugby, and have also been nominated for European Player of the Year. Marcus’ maverick approach is at the core of everything good for Harlequins, and Fin is also proving to be the exact player Northampton need for their attack to function, with him playing flat to the line. A proper mouth-watering head-to-head!

Gloucester vs Exeter Chiefs: Jonny May  vs Immanuel Feyi-Waboso 

From a former England star to England’s newest star. Jonny May has been one of the most consistent wingers in the world for a number of years, and with his exit from Kingsholm looming he will be keen to get a win on one of his last appearances for the club. His opposite man Feyi-Waboso has been the breakout star of the Gallagher Premiership this year, and arguably even the world with his England performances. He is such a dynamic, powerful player who can turn a game on its head at any time.

Newcastle Falcons vs Sale Sharks: Jamie Blamire vs Luke Cowan-Dickie 

Another potential England shoot-out! Both players have found themselves on the fringes of Steve Borthwick’s squad this year, often swapping in and out with one another as the third-choice hooker in the squad. In his prime, Cowan-Dickie was arguably the best hooker in the world, and he seems to building back some level of form after an injury ravaged few months. His opponent Blamire is a key part of this Newcastle side, and will need to step up this weekend if they want to avoid another humiliation.