Gloucester, already struggling with back-row issues following Luke Narraway's appointment with the surgeon and Andy Hazell's suspension for stamping, are likely to find themselves in even more bother today when the Rugby Football Union's disciplinary machinery starts trundling in the direction of Gareth Delve, the captain. Delve received a yellow card during the closing stages of last weekend's heavy defeat at London Irish for his part in a violent spat with the flanker George Stowers, and it is expected that the No 8 will find himself on a formal rap for punching.
Stowers' role in the incident is also being investigated as the governing body continues its effort to restore the sport's good name after a summer of gruesome publicity. Twickenham officials have been startled by the frequent outbreaks of serious fighting, as opposed to squabbles of the "handbags at dawn" variety, in the opening two weeks of the domestic season. Both London derby matches descended into mass brawls on the first weekend while the denouement of the London Irish-Gloucester game was anything but peaceful.
The third round of fixtures begins tonight with Bath, slumming it at the foot of the table after consecutive defeats, taking a much-changed side to Sale, who have yet to lose. The West Countrymen have demoted the centre Tom Cheeseman, the outside-half Ryan Davis, the prop David Flatman, the lock Stuart Hooper and the flanker Andy Beattie from their starting line-up, although all but Cheeseman will be on the bench. Jack Cuthbert starts at full-back with Joe Maddock returning to the wing, Matt Carraro moves to centre with Nicky Little at No 10, David Barnes and Peter Short come into the tight five and Jonny Fa'amatuainu gets a run on the blind- side flank.
Bath have conceded six tries in 160 minutes of rugby, the kind of form that might leave any team gasping for breath at the bottom of the heap. However, the Sale coach, Kingsley Jones, believes them to be in a "false position" and confidently expects a severe test at Edgeley Park, especially as Charlie Hodgson, his principal decision-maker, misses the game with a toe injury.
Leicester, meanwhile, have sold all 24,000 tickets at their recently extended Welford Road ground for tomorrow's meeting with Newcastle – an increase of almost 7,000 on last season's capacity. "The supporters have been absolutely magnificent," said Peter Tom, the chairman. "The vast majority of the tickets were snapped up even before the seats were added to the new stand, which speaks volumes."Reuse content