However, Wasps' cause was not helped last night when West Hartlepool pulled out of tomorrow's First Division match at Sudbury, because of a lengthy injury list.
Bath, deprived of the services of Nigel Redman and the goalkicker Jon Callard as a result of last Saturday's shattering battle with Dax, take on Bristol tonight in a West Country derby they could surely have done without. Bristol, who have injury problems of their own, have never beaten Bath in a League encounter and are not best-placed to break the habit as their internationals Robert Jones and Mark Regan will be in the stand rather than on the pitch.
But the champions, who have switched Jason Robinson from wing to full- back to cover for Callard and have reintroduced Graham Dawe, Victor Ubogu, Eric Peters and Andy Robinson to their pack, are uncomfortably aware a third defeat to go with those by Leicester and Wasps would leave their title defence seriously compromised.
The intrigue tonight will be at Enfield, where Saracens take on Northampton in a game that could easily influence qualification for next year's Heineken Cup. The Midlanders have been hammering away in the European Conference of late while Saracens, denied a place in either cross-border competition after finishing second from bottom in Courage League One last season, have enjoyed what amounted to a mid-campaign break.
"Had Northampton been involved in the main Heineken Cup events, which really is a relentless tournament, I would unhesitatingly have said we would be going into this game with a big advantage in terms of freshness and enthusiasm," said Mark Evans, the Saracens coach. "But the Conference has not made quite the same demands."
Certainly, Northampton will be close to full strength with five internationals. Saracens, however, can boast eight full caps now that Michael Lynagh, the former Australian captain, is fit again.Reuse content