Tuilagi and Croft miss derby for Tigers
Leicester v Northampton
The last time these teams contested a derby in front of a full house at Welford Road, the Leicester centre Manu Tuilagi, then uncapped, caused a firestorm with a very passable impersonation of the late Joe Frazier at his most devastating.
Sadly for those who enjoy a little how's-your-father, the Tigers, languishing towards the bottom of the table, must do without their rumbustious midfielder today, and another World Cup player, Tom Croft. Northampton, in far better shape after their excellent victory over Saracens last weekend, field a full-strength pack.
Wasps v Harlequins
It is a weekend of derbies. Tomorrow's all-London affair at Adams Park sees Harlequins, unbeaten and nine points clear at the top of the table, drawing deep on their reserve strength. Jordan Turner-Hall, George Robson and Nick Easter all picked up injuries in the runaway victory over Newcastle six days ago and while the pacesetters welcome back their resourceful captain Chris Robshaw, they look just a little vulnerable. There again, Wasps are weaker than they were last season and wholly unrecognisable from the team that dominated the English club scene in the Dallaglio years.
Saracens v London Irish
Last weekend's crushing defeat at Franklin's Gardens was just about as rough an experience as Saracens have endured in three years and as a result, they have made changes. The wing Joe Maddock, centre Adam Powell, bright young flanker Jackson Wray and England prop Matt Stevens all start tomorrow, as does the free-roaming breakaway Andy Saull. London Irish have the fiery Tongan No 8 Chris Hala'ufia back in the pack.
Exeter v Worcester
Suddenly, the splendid Devonians are chasing a Heineken Cup qualification place for next season – quite something, given where they were two or three seasons ago. They have not met Worcester on league business since 2004, when the current coach Rob Baxter was captain, and it is difficult to imagine Exeter losing this. Worcester, second from bottom, include the Scotland international prop Bruce Douglas and the former Harlequins lock James Percival.
Bath v Sale
The Bath pack's back five for this afternoon's match is not exactly smothered in Premiership experience. They can, however, pair the England internationals Olly Barkley and Matt Banahan in midfield, outside the fledgling outside-half Tom Heathcote, in for the injured All Black goal-kicker Stephen Donald. Sale, on the wrong side of their "my way or the highway" boss Steve Diamond, have every incentive to win this one.
Gopperth kicks Newcastle to second victory
Newcastle picked up only their second Premiership win of the season as they clung on for a 26-25 victory over Gloucester at Kingston Park.
Two first-half Gloucester tries from Olly Morgan and James Simpson-Daniel were answered by scores from Jordi Pasqualin and James Fitzpatrick. Three Jimmy Gopperth penalties in the second half then put Newcastle six points ahead.
Bryan Redpath, the Gloucester coach, picked out Alasdair Strokosch's sin-binning for a trip on Gopperth as the turning point. "We weren't under any real pressure but we went from 20-10 [ahead] to 20-17," he said.
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