Pressure grows as the new boys prepare to run Saints gauntlet

Premiership Preview



Northampton v Exeter


Suddenly, it's not quite so much fun. Exeter enjoyed two early days in the sun after materialising in the top flight of English rugby – two and a half, if you count the excellent 40 minutes they produced at Leicester a three weeks ago – and much was written about their chances of putting the cat amongst the pigeons by staying up.

Then, last weekend, they were run off their feet by Harlequins. Today? Why, it's Northampton. Up there. As Basil Fawlty said through gritted teeth while shaking his fist at the heavens: "Thank you, God. Thank you so bloody much."

Northampton do not lose many at Franklin's Gardens; indeed, they take great delight in smashing their visitors to kingdom come, as Bath discovered to their acute embarrassment just recently. Jim Mallinder, the Saints' coach, could be heard paying Exeter all the proper compliments yesterday – he highlighted the solid foundations laid by his opposite number, Rob Baxter, and praised the Devonians' spirit of togetherness – but the fact remains: if Exeter return home with anything better than a 20-point beating to their name, it will be a triumph.

They will not have Dylan Hartley to worry about, for the in-form England hooker is being rested under the terms of the Elite Player Squad agreement. Yet there is no respite. Euan Murray, the devoutly Christian tight-head prop who refuses to play on the Sabbath, is happy to turn out on a Saturday and therefore makes his first start of the season. As Murray is among the two or three most destructive scrummagers in Europe on a good day, the potential for carnage is obvious.

Exeter have picked the Fijian wing Sireli Naqelevuki, their recent signing from the Cape Town-based Super 14 outfit Stormers, while the centre Phil Dollman and the loose forward Chad Slade come in for Nic Sestaret and James Phillips, both of whom picked up injuries during the heavy defeat at Quins. At least they are realistic. "We always knew we'd get results like that, even if we didn't want to get them," admitted Ali Hepher, their assistant coach. "But the things that went wrong last week are easy to fix. We'll be the better for it."

London Irish v Leeds

There is no getting away from it: Leeds are in a state. Winless and bottom of the table, their trip to an increasingly confident London Irish this afternoon will tell an interesting tale, for if they fail to front up against the Exiles, the phrase "long old season" will be on the lips of an ever-growing number of Yorkshire rugby pessimists.

Humiliated at Leicester last weekend, the Leeds pack has been heavily revamped. Steve Thompson, first-choice hooker for England on the summer tour of Australia, has been relegated to the bench while Sean Hohneck replaces Tom Denton in the engine room. There are also places for Kearnan Myall and Danny Paul in the back row.

London Irish will be led by the fine Samoan centre Seilala Mapusua, who makes his 100th appearance for the club. Toby Booth, the head coach, makes just one change from the side that won handsomely at Newcastle last time out, Alex Corbisiero coming in at tight-head prop for Faan Rautenbach.

Harlequins v Newcastle

Newcastle, another club with a bad case of the struggles, will have a new look to them when they materialise at the Stoop. Alan Tait, fast discovering just how hard rugby life can be up there in the far north-east, has introduced six players into his starting line-up: the full-back Jeremy Manning, the wing Luke Fielden, the centre Rob Vickerman, the scrum-half Chris Pilgrim, the prop Grant Shiells and the flanker Will Welch. A sign of discontent? Let's put it this way: Alex Tait, Gcobani Bobo, Micky Young and Jon Golding are not generally considered to be Falcons' bench-fodder.

The Londoners stick with the side that gave Exeter a seeing-to in the capital last weekend, so there is another chance to assess the much talked-about prop Joe Marler.

Saracens v Leicester

Saracens were impressive in beating Northampton six days ago – especially up front, where they won the wet-weather arm-wrestle against a pack seemingly equipped with the heavier weaponry. Tomorrow, they take on another set of ambitious East Midlanders in the shape of the champions. Leicester are travelling light, however: no Geordan Murphy or Alesana Tuilagi, no Ben Youngs or Thomas Waldrom. The Tigers are never less than bullish about their chances of victory, but this one could be a stretch for them, especially as the Sarries captain Steve Borthwick is back in form and, more to the point after this week's shenanigans, back from the Munich beer festival.

News
Ben Little, right, is a Labour supporter while Jonathan Rogers supports the Green Party
general election 2015
News
The 91st Hakone Ekiden Qualifier at Showa Kinen Park, Tokyo, 2014
news
Life and Style
Former helicopter pilot Major Tim Peake will become the first UK astronaut in space for over 20 years
food + drinkNothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
News
Kim Wilde began gardening in the 1990s when she moved to the countryside
peopleThe singer is leading an appeal for the charity Thrive, which uses the therapy of horticulture
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Sport
Alexis Sanchez celebrates scoring a second for Arsenal against Reading
football
Life and Style
health
Voices
An easy-peel potato; Dave Hax has come up with an ingenious method in food preparation
voicesDave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
News
i100
News
Japan's population is projected to fall dramatically in the next 50 years (Wikimedia)
news
Life and Style
Buyers of secondhand cars are searching out shades last seen in cop show ‘The Sweeney’
motoringFlares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

Let the propaganda wars begin - again

'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

Japan's incredible long-distance runners

Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

Tom Drury: The quiet American

His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

Beige to the future

Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own