Irish bring back Armitage for champions' visit

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The Independent Online

London Irish v Leicester

The England flanker Steffon Armitage is one of five changes made by London Irish for the game with Guinness Premiership champions Leicester this afternoon.

Having completed his England EPS rest requirement, Armitage returns at openside flanker, with George Stowers switching to blindside in place of Declan Danaher, who sustained a knee ligament injury playing against Llanelli last weekend. The remaining three changes comprise the front row, with Clarke Dermody, Danie Coetzee and Paulica Ion completing an all-internationals pack.

The England centre Dan Hipkiss returns for injury-ravaged Leicester after missing both opening Heineken Cup rounds because of an illness, and partners Anthony Allen in midfield. Marcos Ayerza, Julian White and Richard Blaze return to the pack, after starting last week's Heineken Cup win in Viadana among the replacements.

The Leicester coach, Richard Cockerill, is currently without Joe Duffey, Matt Smith, Mefin Davies, Harry Ellis, Toby Flood, Aaron Mauger, Geordan Murphy, Craig Newby, Sam Vesty, Ben Woods and Alesana Tuilagi.

Northampton v Sale

Northampton's director of rugby, Jim Mallinder, has warned his squad to sustain the levels of commitment they displayed in Europe against Munster and Perpignan or pay a hefty price against Sale. However, the England aspirants, Shane Geraghty, Dylan Hartley and Ben Foden require no such reminder as they prepare to be watched today at Franklin's Gardens by members of the national management team.

Sale have six England players, past and present, on parade in Charlie Hodgson, Mark Cueto, Mathew Tait, Ben Cohen, Dean Schofield and Richard Wigglesworth.

Gloucester v Wasps

Gloucester make just three changes to the team hammered 42-15 by Biarritz last weekend. Carlos Spencer plays his first game of the season at fly-half in tandem with Rory Lawson while the Scotland flanker Alasdair Strokosch returns at blindside.

The Wasps wing David Lemi returns for only his third appearance following recovery from a fractured trapezium, and replaces Tom Varndell who has played in every game so far this season.

Worcester v Harlequins

Pat Sanderson returns to captain Worcester against Harlequins, one of 10 changes to the team who beat Olympus Madrid last weekend. The England No 8 Nick Easter captains Quins in the absence of Will Skinner, who injured his left ankle playing against Toulouse last Saturday, and is replaced at openside by Neil McMillan.

Saracens v Leeds

The Premiership leaders Saracens have suffered a serious setback with their Wales back-row forward Michael Owen ruled out for the rest of the season by knee ligament damage. Owen suffered the injury playing in France against Toulon last week and has undergone surgery that will sideline him for up to nine months.

Saracens play bottom club Leeds at Vicarage Road tomorrow seeking a sixth consecutive Premiership victory.