Rugby Union: Newcastle's title credentials on the line as they enter Leicester's lair

It is the kind of rugby match that the men with the big pockets dream would happen every week - a guaranteed full-house fixture with the added frisson of old kings of the hill facing the pretenders.

The financial problems affecting the game will be temporarily forgotten as Newcastle enter the heartland of rugby at Welford Road tonight where Leicester's Tigers have been sharpening their claws ever since they ended Saracens' unbeaten record in the Allied Dunbar Premiership on Boxing Day.

The northern upstarts settled into Saracens' top spot with a thumping 50-8 win at Bristol on Saturday but third-placed Leicester are intent on knocking them down a peg or two.

Rob Andrew, Newcastle's rugby director, concedes that a win would impress the rest of the Premiership.

"It is the biggest test of our championship credentials so far," he said. "If we win we can face any challenge with increased confidence.

"But we have not even played one third of our Premiership fixtures. We have given ourselves no more than a solid platform. The league is not won here. It will be won in April or May, and we want to be still at the top when the music stops."

Two of the side who beat Saracens will not be on the Leicester song-sheet. Graham Rowntree and Leon Lloyd have not recovered from arm and shoulder injuries respectively, so Perry Freshwater comes in at prop and Craig Joiner takes over on the left wing.

For Newcastle, the full-back Tim Stimpson and Tony Underwood are back from injuries, and the wing John Bentley, recently out of favour, is also be available for selection.

Bath are also determined to put a newly promoted rich club in their place, although they are still below half-way and six points adrift of Newcastle.

As he prepared his team to host Northampton, the Bath coach, Andy Robinson, said: "We have got to win a run of three league games - against Sale, Northampton and Richmond - and we started well with the win at Sale on Saturday.

"Again we ground out a narrow success, and that was reminiscent of the old Bath. But we have not hit top gear yet and are looking for a bit of style as we build towards the European Cup final."

Bath face a kicker in supreme form in Northampton's Paul Grayson. His goals have brought him 68 points out of 93 and Bath know that if they are in one of their penalty-conceding modes they will suffer.

Saracens, who expect to get back on track at lowly London Irish, rest lock Paddy Johns and bring in another international in Wales' Tony Copsey. Irish changes may be confined to a slight tinkering with their starting line-up.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Luis Suarez looks towards the crowd during the 2-1 victory over England
Life and Style
Cheesecake frozen yoghurt by Constance and Mathilde Lorenzi
food + drinkThink outside the cool box for this summer’s frozen treats
John Barrowman kisses his male “bride” at a mock Gretna Green during the Commonwealth Games opening ceremony
peopleBarrowman's opening ceremony message to Commonwealth countries where he would be sent to prison for being gay
Sir Bradley Wiggins removes his silver medal after the podium ceremony for the men’s 4,000m team pursuit in Glasgow yesterday
Commonwealth games Disappointment for Sir Bradley in team pursuit final as England are forced to settle for silver
Alistair Brownlee (right) celebrates with his gold medal after winning the men’s triathlon alongside brother Jonny (left), who got silver
England's Jodie Stimpson won the women’s triathlon in the morning
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Process Improvement Analyst (Testing)

£40000 - £45000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client is curr...

Service Delivery Manager - Derivatives, Support,

Negotiable: Harrington Starr: Service Delivery Manager - (Derivatives, Support...

Technical Account Manager - Java, FIX Protocol, FIX 5.0, C++

£30000 - £55000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Technical Account Manager - Java,...

WPF .NET Developer

£300 - £350 per day: Harrington Starr: WPF Analyst Programmer NET, WPF, C#, M...

Day In a Page

Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little
Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

Meet the US Army's shooting star

Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform