Leicester v Northampton
Northampton have flexed their militant muscles in the direction of the international game on more than one occasion in the professional era, most recently when they prevented their prop Euan Murray from attending a British and Irish Lions get-together last May.
So when they named Ben Foden, currently in camp with England, at full-back for this afternoon's East Midlands derby, there was another whiff of insubordination in the air. Sadly for those who enjoy these outbreaks of fun and games, it disappeared with the first puff of breeze.
Unlike the two Leicester locks, Ben Kay and Richard Blaze, the full-back was not made available by England for Premiership duty this weekend, although it appears Northampton thought he might be and therefore picked him in their starting line-up.
Following discussions with the red-rose hierarchy (dominated by men of Leicester, it is worth pointing out), Foden was duly withdrawn. Bruce Reihana, hardly a novice at No 15, will perform the role at Welford Road.
Leicester have not lost a Premiership game on their own mudheap for well over a year, but they might have felt just a little uncomfortable ahead of this one had Northampton not lost their best three locks – Juandre Kruger, Ignacio Fernandez Lobbe and the exciting Courtney Lawes – to a mix of suspension, injury and international duty.
The fact that Aaron Mauger, the All Black centre, is back in the home side's midfield might tilt things their way.
Bath v Saracens
A single point clear at the top of the table, Saracens travel to the Recreation Ground without Steve Borthwick, who is captain of his country as well as his club and, as a consequence, finds himself wrapped in cotton wool in the run-up to next weekend's Test meeting with the Wallabies.
Borthwick would have enjoyed a return to his old stamping ground, what with Bath down in the nether regions with one miserable Premiership victory to their name.
The West Countrymen should be plenty competitive enough in the back five of the scrum, though, especially if the eye-catching Australian flanker Julian Salvi can stay on the right side of the referee while continuing to skin opponents alive on the floor.
However, they look unbalanced outside the pack in the continuing absence of the injured Olly Barkley, whose kicking game is being sorely missed.
Harlequins v London Irish
Undermined by injury and international calls, Harlequins have been forced to reshape their back division for this game against their nearest and dearest from south-west London.
Josh Drauniniu makes his Premiership debut on the wing while Rory Clegg is given a first league start of the season at outside-half in place of the stricken Nick Evans. There are tinkerings in the back row, too, with Neil McMillan on the open-side flank and the elusive Tom Guest at No 8.
Irish are much more settled – just the two changes from last weekend's victory over Leicester – and they may carry too much up front for their old neighbours.
Newcastle v Worcester
The heady heights of the top half of the table are just reward for Newcastle's hard-working performances against clubs who consider themselves grandly superior, and the Tynesiders will be bitterly disappointed if they do not secure victory tomorrow. Alex Tait returns at full-back while Filipo Levi is back in the middle of the loose-forward unit.
Wasps v Leeds
The Londoners are playing some bright stuff and, although the loss of the in-form midfielder Dominic Waldouck will cramp their style, they should be too hot for the Premiership's bottom club, especially as two Lions forwards, Simon Shaw and Joe Worsley, are back between the shafts.Reuse content