Premiership Rugby

Gallagher Premiership Round 9 Preview - Top Of The Table Up For Grabs

Gallagher Premiership Round 9 Preview - Top Of The Table Up For Grabs

Round 9 of the 2023-2024 Gallagher Premiership is a key round to decide who will top the table, and here is a preview of the upcoming action.

Dec 22, 2023
Gallagher Premiership Round 9 Preview - Top Of The Table Up For Grabs

With the opening two rounds of the Champions Cup complete, attention turns back to domestic club rugby, where the Premiership launches into the first of its festive fixtures.

There are some big games looming, with a repeat of the latest Premiership final playing out on Friday night. There’s also a must-win battle for teams near the bottom of the table and a clash of two international-caliber No. 10s.

Here, we take a closer look at what to look out for in each of the five matches this weekend:  

Sale Sharks Vs. Saracens

The marquee match of the weekend will take place Friday night on the outskirts of Manchester, as the Sale Sharks open their doors to Saracens.

It will be the first time the teams have met since facing off in the Premiership final last season, adding extra heat to an already spicy affair.

Saracens won that battle but has started the weaker of the two in the league this time around, sitting fourth, though only two points off table-topping Sale.

That means whichever team wins will end the weekend higher in the league than the other, so the stakes are high, and the rivalry is fierce.

It’ll be tightly fought and swing on the performance of each pack, but with Sale having home advantage, expect the Sharks to edge out a low-scoring, brutal encounter.

Newcastle Falcons Vs. Bristol Bears

The other Friday night matchup is not so much a clash of heavyweights, as much as it’s a must-win game for two teams both in need of a confidence boost.

Host Newcastle is the more desperate of the two, having remained winless so far this season, while only having four points.

In the last round, Bristol put to bed a five-game losing streak with a win against Gloucester, but the Bears need another victory under to truly start heading in the right direction.

Bristol should comfortably achieve that against Newcastle, given its squad is by far the strongest.

Exeter Chiefs Vs. Leicester Tigers

Of all the games taking place over the next few days, Leicester Tigers’ trip to Sandy Park promises the closest clash of styles.

Both the Tigers and Exeter Chiefs rely upon Route 1 rugby, picking up territory, tries and gain-line success through the physicality of their ball carrying.

There’s nothing deceptive about their main aim - they both want to batter their opponents into submission.

The similarities don’t end there. 

Both have been enduring erratic form so far - the Chiefs are sixth and just three points above the Tigers in seventh – and both just won their opening two games in the Champions Cup.

It sets things up nicely for a brutal battle up front, with positioning in the table at stake.

With Handre Pollard reporting for duty, the Tigers will be favored by many, but don’t be surprised if they struggle to breach a bullish Chiefs' defense and ultimately come up short on the road.

Gloucester Vs. Northampton Saints

The form of these two sides could not be more different. 

On the one hand, you have Gloucester - a side pinned near the bottom of the table with the pressure continuing to build.

Then, there’s Saints, a side brimming with confidence following their successful escapades in the Champions Cup. Their backs are operating in complete harmony, producing some of the most exciting attacking rugby around.

Gloucester has enough star power in its own backline to match Saints, but consistently have come up short this season and have at times looked lost, lacking ideas.

After the last round, Gloucester’s board penned an open letter to fans, explaining they were seeking a swift resolution to the disappointing dip in form.

Fans and the board alike may have even more questions after this weekend, as all things point toward a comfortable Saints siege of Kingsholm.

Bath Vs. Harlequins

When Bath hosts Harlequins this Saturday, it will be billed as a huge battle between second and third in the table. While this is indeed true, the real appeal behind the fixture is the head-to-head between Finn Russell and Marcus Smith.

Both international 10s arguably are two of the most prolific attacking threats in the game - Russell for his ability to take possession right to the gain line and pick holes in even the tightest of spots, and Smith for his iconic goose step and endless box of tricks.

Bath and Harlequins are two of the most exciting teams to watch, precisely because of these two men, so everything points toward an exceptional contest defined by their brilliance.

Given their willingness to attack, expect a high-scoring contest to unfold, with both teams launching into the other like prize fighters in a ring.

Picking a winner is challenging, but following Harlequin's deflating loss to Toulouse last weekend, it may lack the momentum to topple Bath at the Rec.