Aviva Premiership preview: Gloucester give humiliated side the chance to make amends

Your guide to this weekend's action

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The Independent Online

Gloucester v Sale

Saturday, 3pm

Having found themselves buried under a 50-point avalanche on the opening night of the campaign. Gloucester have resisted the temptation to drop everyone; instead, they go into this game entirely unchanged, thereby putting significant faith in the players who leaked tries at Northampton nine days ago.

“No one involved in professional sport likes to lose by the margin we did but, even so, we were definitely pleased with some elements of our game,” said the club’s rugby director, David Humphreys. “We know how good our players are, we know how much experience and knowledge exists within our coaching team, and we have a very clear plan of what we want to do.”

Gloucester’s new tactical brains trust – Greig Laidlaw at scrum-half, James Hook at stand-off, Billy Twelvetrees at inside centre – therefore have another chance to arrive at a common understanding. Sale, meanwhile, travel light thanks to minor injuries to Mark Cueto and Dan Braid.

Bath v London Welsh

Saturday, 3pm

Olly Barkley played all his best rugby during two stints by the Avon. Quite how much he will enjoy returning to his favourite haunt at the heart of a London Welsh team who looked seriously underpowered against Exeter less than a week ago is anyone’s guess.

Barkley leads the Exiles, who have dropped their club captain, Tom May, to the bench as part of a serious revamp. Bath hand a first Premiership start to the scrum-half Chris Cook.

Exeter v Leicester

Saturday, 3.15pm

Three of Leicester’s most effective players – the full-back Mathew Tait, the centre Anthony Allen and the lock Geoff Parling – are back, so Exeter will do very well indeed to hold their position at the top. Unsurprisingly, the Devonians are sticking with the starting line-up that launched the seven-try demolition of London Welsh, so Thomas Waldrom gets an early shot at his old employers.

Newcastle v London Irish

Sunday, 3pm

David Paice, one of the harder-bitten tight forwards currently operating in the Premiership, makes his 200th appearance for London Irish at Kingston Park on Sunday in what may turn out to be a highly significant game. The visitors, who have decided to run the gifted Shane Geraghty at inside centre, have targeted this fixture as an away victory. If they go down against a side bolstered by the return of Scott Lawson and Mark Wilson up front, they could find the next few weeks uncomfortable.

Wasps v Northampton

Sunday, 2pm

Christian Wade, still shaken up after being involved in a road accident a few days after his try-scoring exploits for Wasps against Saracens at Twickenham, misses out: Tom Varndell, scarcely any slower, replaces him on the wing. The champions, so impressive against Gloucester, remain unchanged.

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