Premiership Rugby

Gallagher Premiership Preview: West Country Derby And Stars Return

Gallagher Premiership Preview: West Country Derby And Stars Return

It's time for more rugby excitement, including West Country Derby, Gloucester vs. Bath, stars return, Courtney Lawes' comeback and Leicester's revival.

Nov 10, 2023
Gallagher Premiership Preview: West Country Derby And Stars Return

This weekend will bring around the first West Country Derby of the Premiership season, as the league gears up for another action-packed round of rugby.

The derby should be the highlight of the weekend, but there’s still more to look forward to, namely the return of a few more World Cup stars.

Here, we take a closer look at the game of the weekend, the player to watch and the main storyline to follow.

Game Of The Week 

Derby games always have that added layer of spice, and on Friday night, all eyes will be fixed on Kingsholm, as Gloucester takes on Bath in the latest instalment of the West Country Derby.

The clash is always a hotly contested affair and will be boosted by the return of some huge international stars. 

Last season's Gallagher Premiership Player of the Year, Ollie Lawrence, will rejuvenate the Bath backline, most likely slotting into the centers, alongside Cameron Redpath.

Those two will be joined in the backline by the ever-electric Finn Russell and winger Joe Cokanasiga, both of whom were given time off in the previous round.

The assembling of this heavy arsenal will make Bath a nightmare to handle, but Gloucester has its own cohort of internationals to appease this show of strength.

The Argentine duo of Santiago Carreras and Matias Alemanno will make their way back into the cherry and whites squad, alongside England winger Jonny May, giving Gloucester plenty of power in their own backline to spark a flame.

However, they are expected to be without Wales superstar Louis Rees-Zammit, who is an injury doubt after sustaining a shoulder knock in the World Cup quarterfinals.

Last season, Bath and Gloucester picked up a win apiece in the league against one another, and both will be eyeing up a win with high intensity.

That’s because both sides, after starting the season with two wins in four, need a victory to assert their hunt for a spot in the top 4.

Incidentally, Bath is fourth at the moment, while Gloucester is eighth, though just three points separate them. So, not only will the winners come away with derby bragging rights, they’ll likely move clear of the other in the table.

The Player To Watch 

Courtney Lawes will make his long-awaited return to the Premiership this weekend after a summer spent away with England.

In that time, he’s captained his country, become the fifth Englishman to reach 100 international caps, helped carry his nation to the World Cup semifinals and subsequently retired from international duty at the close of the tournament, bringing to an end a stellar 14-year run at the very peak of the game.

Incidentally, it was on Nov. 8 2009, that Lawes made his international debut against the Wallabies, neatly wrapping up what has been an emotional few weeks for him and his family.

Of course, Lawes won’t be phased by the idolatry and ongoing outpouring. He's now reported for duty with the Northampton Saints and is readying himself for a huge clash Sunday afternoon with the table-topping Exeter Chiefs.

The Saints are fifth in the table and could do with a win to solidify their position in the top 4, and Lawes could be the man to achieve that aim.

The Key Storyline To Follow 

The time has come for Leicester Tigers to get their season back in order. 

Following the arrival of new head coach Dan McKellar in the summer, who joined after serving as the assistant coach of the Wallabies, there were high expectations for the Tigers.

However, the side has come up short three times in four games. Their only win was by a single point, coming courtesy of a last-minute penalty from Jamie Shillcock against Bath.

While it’s not quite time to hit the panic button, the pressure is undoubtedly mounting on a side that reached the Premiership semifinals last season.

The antidote may have just arrived, though, as the Springbok duo of Handrè Pollard and Jasper Wiese were seen training with Tigers after completing their World Cup-winning tour of South Africa.

Pollard’s presence, in particular, will be a huge boost for the club, which has looked unsettled at the fly-half position. His maturity and imperious game management will be hugely important tools for Leicester this Saturday when they face Harlequins.

Let’s not forget he didn’t miss a single kick for the Springboks throughout the entire World Cup – he’s the epitome of ice cold and should be the difference maker for the Tigers this season.