Weekend preview: Saints’ hopes face severe local test from reviving Tigers


Rugby Union Correspondent

Northampton v Leicester (3.15pm Saturday)

It would be a classic Colosseum contest between the lions and the Christians, if only it were possible to work out who was who. East Midlands derbies are never short of decibels when it comes to the smack of muscle on bone, but today’s little shindig will be deafening, such is the growing rivalry between Leicester, the biggest club in the country as well as the reigning champions, and Northampton, who intend to relieve their neighbours of both titles.

The home side are in full warpaint, with Dylan Hartley at hooker, Courtney Lawes at lock and the unholy trinity of Calum Clark, Phil Dowson and Tom Wood forming what might euphemistically be described as a no-nonsense back row. Leicester have the comparatively angelic Mathew Tait at full-back – the man described by his own head coach as “the slowest-healing player in rugby history” has recovered from an ankle injury. Otherwise the Tigers are sticking with the men who hammered Exeter last time out.

Newcastle v Worcester (2pm Sunday)

The Tynesiders could mess up tomorrow and still be reasonably confident of retaining Premiership status, but if the result goes the wrong way for Dean Richards’ men, the concluding weeks of the campaign will be just a little uncomfortable. On the face of it, there is enough attacking  ability in the Newcastle back line to kill the relegation debate stone dead. On the other hand, there are good reasons why they have not won a league game since late October.

Worcester would be in a far happier place if their losing streak had lasted a mere five months. Instead, it has been going on for more than a year. Some of those defeats have been last-gasp affairs  but the fact remains they are a dozen points adrift at the foot of the table with five to play. And as this important game is being played on the sabbath, they must do without their most experienced tight forward, the Scottish prop Euan Murray, whose religious convictions prevent him participating.

Harlequins v London Irish (3pm Saturday)

Having gone light into last weekend’s Wembley meeting with Saracens – no Mike Brown, no Danny Care, no Chris Robshaw – and finished a distant second, Quins load up with big-name internationals for this one. The 2012 champions cannot afford to go soft again: if they do, their chances of a semi-final place will evaporate. However, the return of the red-rose trio makes them hot favourites.

Wasps v Saracens (3pm Saturday)

Tom Palmer, the England lock who has signed a contract with Gloucester for next season, returns to the Wasps engine room, bridging the chasm left by the outstanding Joe Launchbury, who is resting under the “elite player” agreement. Launchbury’s absence hardly helps the home side against opponents who find it much easier to compensate for the absence of front-line players. The league leaders start without Chris Wyles, Owen Farrell, Richard Wigglesworth, Schalk Brits and Jacques Burger, yet can still field a dozen internationals.

Exeter v Gloucester (3pm Saturday)

Exeter began their Premiership existence with a famous victory over Gloucester and fancy their chances of doing something similar today, despite a chastening experience at Leicester six days ago. Tom Johnson, the England flanker, is back on the beat, while Matt Jess is no mean replacement for Jack Nowell, the injured red-rose wing. As for Gloucester, Jonny May, Billy Twelvetrees and Ben Morgan are back.


Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

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

Career Services

Day In a Page

John Palmer: 'Goldfinger' of British crime was murdered, say police

Murder of the Brink’s-MAT mastermind

'Goldfinger' of British crime's life ended in a blaze of bullets, say police
Bodyworlds museum: Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy

Dying dream of Doctor Death

Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy
UK heatwave: Temperature reaches 39.8 degrees on Central Line - the sweatiest place in London

39.8 degrees recorded on Tube

There's hot (London) and too damn hot (the Underground). Simon Usborne braved the Central line to discover what its passengers suffer
Jessie Cave interview: The Harry Potter star has published a feminist collection of cartoons

Jessie Cave's feminist cartoons

The Harry Potter star tells Alice Jones how a one-night stand changed her life
10 best barbecue books

Fire up the barbie: 10 best barbecue books

We've got Bibles to get you grilling and smoking like a true south American pro
Seifeddine Rezgui: What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?

Making of a killer

What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?
UK Heatwave: Temperatures on the tube are going to exceed the legal limit for transporting cattle

Just when you thought your commute couldn't get any worse...

Heatwave will see temperatures on the Tube exceed legal limit for transporting cattle
Exclusive - The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Swapping Bucharest for London

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Meet the man who swapped Romania for the UK in a bid to provide for his family, only to discover that the home he left behind wasn't quite what it seemed
Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Solar power will help bring down electricity prices over the next five years, according to a new report. But it’s cheap imports of ‘dirty power’ that will lower them the most
Katy Perry prevented from buying California convent for $14.5m after nuns sell to local businesswoman instead

No grace of God for Katy Perry as sisters act to stop her buying convent

Archdiocese sues nuns who turned down star’s $14.5m because they don’t approve of her
Ajmer: The ancient Indian metropolis chosen to be a 'smart city' where residents would just be happy to have power and running water

Residents just want water and power in a city chosen to be a ‘smart’ metropolis

The Indian Government has launched an ambitious plan to transform 100 of its crumbling cities
Michael Fassbender in 'Macbeth': The Scottish play on film, from Welles to Cheggers

Something wicked?

Films of Macbeth don’t always end well - just ask Orson Welles... and Keith Chegwin
10 best sun creams for body

10 best sun creams for body

Make sure you’re protected from head to toe in the heatwave
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - Milos Raonic has ability to get to the top but he must learn to handle pressure in big games

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon files

Milos Raonic has ability to get to the top but he must learn to handle pressure in big games
Women's World Cup 2015: How England's semi-final success could do wonders for both sexes

There is more than a shiny trophy to be won by England’s World Cup women

The success of the decidedly non-famous females wearing the Three Lions could do wonders for a ‘man’s game’ riddled with cynicism and greed