In the Aviva Premiership today, Leeds – who sacked their director of rugby, Andy Key, in midweek – are away to Saracens. Neil Back, who has taken sole charge of the team, will have the England forwards Steve Thompson and Hendre Fourie back in his pack. Next Sunday, bottom-placed Leeds are at home to 11th-placed Newcastle in what, to apply a football cliché to bonus-point-enhanced rugby, will be "a real 10-pointer". An unlikely Leeds win at Vicarage Road would overhaul the Falcons a week early.
Back said: "Andy and I came to the club with a vision over three years and we are not quite there but we knew there would be changes and no one is guaranteed to be here for that journey. We have lost players and introduced others. I don't feel any more pressure. It's a collective effort. Players and management are clear about their roles, we are looking forward to the game and that's where our focus is."
In the Magners League yesterday, the Ospreys won 34-18 against the better of the two Italian sides, Benetton Treviso, in the Veneto. The Scotland wing Nikki Walker scored three tries for the Welsh region; Ian Gough and Ashley Beck also scored tries and Dan Biggar kicked nine points. Tobias Botes scored two tries, a conversion and two penalties in reply.
The first round of the new and improved (by a Melbourne team who lost their first game 43-0 to New South Wales) Super 15 continued yesterday. In Auckland, the Blues and the Crusaders produced an entertaining game, the Blues (the joint second-most successful Super Rugby team with three titles, the same as South Africa's Bulls) coming back to beat the Crusaders (the most successful, with seven titles), 24-22. Benson Stanley, Tony Woodcock and Keven Mealamu scored the Blues' tries and Sean Maitland and Andy Ellis scored for the Crusaders. The visitors' fly-half, one Dan Carter, had a bad night with the boot, missing four kicks. The Blues and All Blacks lock Ali Williams, recently returned from a stint in the Championship with Nottingham, played for just over an hour in his first Super Rugby appearance since 2009.
In Canberra, the ACT Brumbies beat the Chiefs 28-20. Robbie Coleman, Francis Fanifo and Salesi Ma'afu scored the Australian team's tries and the Wallaby centre Matt Giteau, who has announced a post-World Cup move to Toulon, kicked 13 points. Sitiveni Sivivatu, Tawera Kerr-Barlow and Lelia Masaga scored tries for the Chiefs, who fielded the oldest player to play Super Rugby – Tana Umaga, the 37-year-old former All Black centre who is now the player-coach of Counties-Manukau.
In Durban, the Sharks beat another South African side, the Cheetahs, 24-9. The Sharks forwards Jacques Botes and Bismarck du Plessis scored the only tries of a most un-Super-10-12-14-or-15-like game. In Johannesburg, the Bulls beat the Lions 24-20.