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

After two back to back European weekends, we now turn our attention onto the Gallagher Premiership, with five blockbuster matches.

Saracens and Gloucester get the weekend underway at the StoneX; and this is followed by two local derby matches as Northampton Saints face Leicester Tigers and Exeter Chiefs take on Bath Rugby.

Sunday also sees two fantastic games, as Bristol Bears face Newcastle Falcons and Sale square off with Harlequins.

There are also some fascinating head-to-heads across the five games. England spots are on the line, world class players are going toe-to-toe and some fresh faced youngsters are testing themselves against some of the best in the world.

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

Northampton vs Leicester: Alex Mitchell vs Jack van Poortvliet

These two will likely be fighting it out for the England nine jersey for years to come, and games like this give them a chance to get one over their competition. Alex Mitchell has been in fantastic form this season, and has really helped their attack function with consistent quick-ball and a great ability to snipe around the ruck. His opposite number van Poortvliet is just as important to his team, and seems even better since his return from injury. Both scrum-halves will need to be at their best to beat their opponent.

Exeter Chiefs vs Bath Rugby: Jacques Vermeulen vs Sam Underhill

The battle at seven could be the deciding factor in this West Country affair. Last time the teams faced each other, Underhill was a one man defensive machine. The England flanker made 3 turnovers and 21 tackles as Bath held out an Exeter onslaught for much of the game. He won’t have it all his own way this weekend though, with Exeter’s enforcer back in the squad. Vermeulen has missed the past few weeks with injury, however he will look to bring his typical abrasive nature to the fold. He is such a powerful ball carrier in the tight, and this season has developed a real eye for the try-line. He is also a solid defender too in his own right.

Sale Sharks vs Harlequins: Manu Tuilagi vs Andre Esterhuizen

The battle at 12 this Sunday will likely be the most explosive clash this weekend. Both Tuilagi and Esterhuizen are powerful, dynamic ball carriers and are so important in getting their team over the gainline. Esterhuizen’s connection with Smith and Dombrandt adds a whole new dynamic to his game, and makes their spine such a unique attacking power.

Bristol Bears vs Newcastle Falcons: Magnus Bradbury vs Callum Chick

Magnus Bradbury has been quietly going about his business since the restart, but he will definitely prove to be a handful this Sunday. He has quickly become a key man for the Bears this season, notching 8 tries in 19 appearances to date, including a brace in their win over Gloucester. It’ll be a hard task to stop him adding to his tally this weekend, but England international Callum Chick could be just the man to do it. The Falcons skipper is another player who quietly goes about his work, but he is solid on both sides of the ball and working under Steve Diamond will bring the best out of him. He has a big job on his hands this weekend though without star back-rower Guy Pepper.

Saracens vs Gloucester: Owen Farrell vs Charlie Atkinson

One of England’s greatest ever 10’s vs a player aspiring to be England’s next fly-half. Farrell knows his side’s recent performances haven’t been up to standard, so his leadership will need to come to the fore this weekend. He is, of course, one of the greatest players in Gallagher Premiership history, so we know exactly what he will bring on both sides of the ball. Atkinson, on the other hand, is someone still finding his feet at this level. In in first few appearances in Cherry and White he has also shown genuine promise, but this is toughest test to date.