O'Shea's new broom cannot brush away shame

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The Independent Online

Bath v Harlequins

Conor O'Shea will take charge of Harlequins for the first time as director of rugby today but the stain of "Bloodgate" refuses to entirely disappear according to the club's chief executive, Mark Evans.

O'Shea's first match in charge is a further staging post as the club continue to rediscover themselves following the saga last season that sealed Dean Richards's fate.

"You would be incredible naive to think [the Bloodgate stigma] will ever disappear completely", Evans said. "Things like that don't. They become part of history, and like good or bad seasons, are woven into the fabric of the club."

Bath have lost their last four encounters against Harlequins but as the form team, they will be confident that statistic will come to an end. They have not been helped by losing backs Ryan Davis and Ben Williams with respective thumb and knee injuries but they have dropped just four of their last 30 possible league points.

Gloucester v Leeds

Gloucester have won their last five matches against Leeds but the visitors have won three on the bounce for their best showing since 2004-5. If Leeds are to continue their run, they will have to end Gloucester's eight-match unbeaten sequence at Kingsholm, a prospect made more daunting as Gloucester welcome back Marco Bortolami, Gareth Delve, Scott Lawson and Mike Tindall following Six Nations' duty.

Worcester v Leicester

Bottom-club Worcester can be thankful that the Premiership's top scorer, Willie Walker, is fit while top side Leicester can reinstall Lewis Moody, Ben Youngs, Toby Flood, Geordan Murphy and Martin Castrogiovanni after their Six Nations inclusion.

Northampton v Wasps

Northampton Saints may have defeated Gloucester to win the LV= Cup at Sixways on Sunday but with two wins in 12 against Wasps in all competitions, a return to planet Earth is always a danger today. Saying that, the Saints have not lost at Franklin's Gardens since February 2009.

Wasps, who have not won on the road since beating Harlequins in December, have Tom Rees back in the side for the first time in 11 months following a shoulder problem.

London Irish v Sale

Sale have made 11 changes following their Wasps victory last Friday that ended an eight-match winless run. A combination of injuries and the return of internationals Mark Cueto, Mathew Tait and Dwayne Peel has prompted the changes by director of rugby Kingsley Jones as tomorrow Sale go looking for their first win at the Madejski Stadium since October 2006.

Saracens v Newcastle

Saracens expect the England captain Steve Borthwick to be back soon from his knee injury regardless of reports to the contrary. Newcastle are just three points off the bottom of the table and just two wins from their last 15 visits to Vicarage Road does not instill confidence for tomorrow's endeavours.

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