Bath v Leicester
Selection strategies are all fine and dandy when results are going the right way, but there is no place for the luxuries of theory when the scoreboard is giving out the wrong message.
Bath, deflated by early season losses to Gloucester and Wasps, have temporarily abandoned their policy of rotating their front-row forwards following the important victory at Sale eight days ago and will field precisely the same pack against Leicester at the Recreation Ground this afternoon.
This may or may not suit the likes of David Barnes, whose reward for retaining his place at loose-head prop is a purgatorial meeting with the ogreish Julian White. Indeed, the entire Bath forward unit who prevailed at Edgeley Park may find things a little less comfortable this afternoon, what with Lewis Moody and Jordan Crane returning to the visitors' back row.
Things have been known to cut up rough when these age-old rivals meet on competitive business, but it is highly unusual for one of the protagonists to miss out on an afternoon's thud and blunder as a consequence of cutting his own thumb. Matt Carraro, rather impressive since arriving from Sydney, is off limits because, it is said, he sliced himself open in the kitchen while cooking a stir-fry – hardly a dish of Michelin star complexity – for his fellow Australian, the flanker Julian Salvi. Matt Banahan fills the gap in midfield by moving inside from the wing.
Saracens v Gloucester
Talking of self-inflicted wounds, the international forwards Greg Somerville and Marco Bortolami miss Gloucester's trip to Vicarage Road tomorrow after falling victim to a training ground "incident". Perversely, this might turn out to be an encouraging sign, given that many of the West Country club's recent problems are linked to the fact that none of their tight forwards have seemed capable of damaging anyone – even each other. If training is getting physical, it is not before time.
Paul Doran-Jones, a summer recruit from London Welsh, makes a first Premiership start at prop while Adam Eustace, a familiar figure in the second row down the years, has been press-ganged into service at No 8, thanks to Luke Narraway's fitness problems and Gareth Delve's suspension. As for unbeaten Saracens, the rapid recovery of the England captain Steve Borthwick from a sprained rib cartilage means they go in at full strength.
London Irish v Wasps
Wasps are working their way back to something like full strength themselves. Phil Vickery, whose performance for the Lions in the third Test against South Africa was every bit as good as his display in the first Test was calamitous, is back in the front row for the first time this season and the outcome of his contest with the All Black prop Clarke Dermody will go some way to tilting this Thames Valley derby one way or the other. The Exiles have recalled David Paice at hooker.
Worcester v Sale
Worcester are not the most prolific of try-scorers; Sale have managed one in three matches. At least Charlie Hodgson is back at outside-half for the visitors. If he turns out to be the difference between the sides, no one will die of shock.
Northampton v Leeds
The Yorkshiremen have made four changes as a result of last week's desperate performance against London Irish. It will not worry Northampton, who rarely lose at Franklin's Gardens.Reuse content