Mallinder faces red-rose audition

Weekend Preview

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The Independent Online

Northampton v Saracens

All eyes, then, on Jim Mallinder, the Northampton coach, who is considered the outstanding English candidate to take over the running of the national team.

This week's events might persuade anyone in full possession of his faculties to run the proverbial mile from Twickenham and all associated with the hell-hole, but if the former Sale full-back manages to do a job on Saracens this evening, the clamour for him to be installed as red-rose coach will go up another decibel. Lee Dickson, the Midlanders' scrum-half, makes his 100th appearance and there are starting places for George Pisi and James Elliott in an unfamiliar looking back division.

Gloucester v Leicester

Gloucester must be more than a little unnerved by the comprehensive manner of Harlequins' victory at Kingsholm last weekend, but Bryan Redpath has resisted the temptation to propel the baby in the same direction as the bath water. Olly Morgan's return at full-back will guarantee some security if Leicester opt for an aerial bombardment while Luke Narraway's reappearance at No 8 should mean fewer butchered chances in the opposition red zone. The Tigers have recalled Billy Twelvetrees in midfield, Martin Castrogiovanni at prop, George Skivington at lock and Ben Woods at flanker.

London Irish v Wasps

Ofisa Treviranus, the new recruit from Samoa, moves directly from passport control to the London Irish bench with passing "Go" for this afternoon's London-ish derby against Wasps (neither side do more than train in the capital these days). Exiles were disappointed to lose a second consecutive Heineken Cup pool game in Cardiff last week, but played most of the game with 14 men and were resourceful enough to press for victory at the death. With Paul Hodgson back at scrum-half and the impressive Jamie Gibson starting in the back row, they will take some beating.

Harlequins v Newcastle

Life at Quins is too serene for words: unbeaten across three competitions, they do not appear likely to surrender that record tomorrow against this season's prime relegation candidates. Certainly, they are sticking to their guns on the selection front by keeping the first-choice side together. The only changes from last weekend's excellent Heineken Cup performance at Gloucester are at scrum-half, where the Test player Danny Care replaces the injured Karl Dickson, and hooker, where Chris Brooker comes in for Joe Gray on rotation.