Weekend preview: Sarries seek to nail home semi and lighten load

 

Saracens v Northampton (2pm Saturday)

Seven points clear at the top and 14 ahead of Leicester in third, Saracens will have to mess up badly to deny themselves a home semi-final next month (not that ground advantage did them a fat lot of good at the same stage last season). Yet the Londoners would like to nail things down as quickly as possible: they are fighting on two fronts as the last English team standing in the Heineken Cup, injuries are kicking in, and as the head coach Mark McCall knows full well, it is easier to manage a squad when some games are less important than others.

With the No 8 Ernst Joubert incapacitated for the rest of the season and the England full-back Alex Goode still feeling the effects of last week’s aerial misadventure in Belfast, there are starts tomorrow for the excellent Chris Wyles and the fast-developing  Jackson Wray. Northampton are without their stricken captain Dylan Hartley, but will be fully loaded otherwise. Not that they have a choice in the matter with a top-two finish still far from secure.

Worcester v Exeter (3pm Saturday)

This is it as far as the Midlanders are concerned: failure to beat a fast-fading Exeter will just about finish them off as a Premiership concern. Happily for them, the Samoan wing David Lemi is fit to start – it seems prayers are occasionally answered, even at God-forsaken Sixways – and as the game is being played today rather than tomorrow, the devout front-rower Euan Murray is available to anchor the scrum. The visitors, meanwhile, have switched their ultra-athletic captain, the Wallaby lock Dean Mumm, to the open-side flank.

London Irish v Newcastle (3pm Sunday)

Should Worcester mess up, the Tynesiders will virtually close the deal on top-flight survival with victory at the Madejski Stadium. They travel under the leadership of Will Welch, the back-rower having recovered from injury, and have a new-look scrummaging unit, with Grant Shiells and Matt Thompson joining Oliver Tomaszczyk, a real heart-and-soul merchant. The Exiles, stuck in no man’s land table-wise, cannot find a place for the England wing Marland Yarde.

Gloucester v Bath (3.15pm Sunday)

Talking of England players struggling for game time, the No 8 Ben Morgan and the  outside-half Freddie Burns also know how it feels. Neither starts for Gloucester in today’s West Country derby at Castle Grim – an important match for both sides, if for different reasons. A victory for the Cherry and Whites will push them closer to seventh and a play-off shot at qualification for the new European Rugby Champions Cup. A win for the visitors, who have changed a third of their side, will address a bad case of the jitters that threatens to undermine their semi-final ambitions.

Leicester v Wasps (3pm Saturday)

Somehow, it is not entirely obvious that Wasps feel they can win this game. Their Amlin Challenge Cup  victory over Gloucester last weekend took a heavy toll – Andrea Masi, Joe Simpson, Jake Cooper-Woolley and Kearnan Myall all copped it – and by leaving players as good as Joe Launchbury, Sam Jones and Elliot Daly on the bench… well, it tells its own story. Leicester? They’re on a roll. It could be messy.

BUY RUGBY WORLD CUP TICKETS

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
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

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

Career Services

Day In a Page

Mullah Omar, creator of the Taliban, is dead... for the fourth time

Mullah Omar, creator of the Taliban, is dead... again

I was once told that intelligence services declare their enemies dead to provoke them into popping up their heads and revealing their location, says Robert Fisk
Margaret Attwood on climate change: 'Time is running out for our fragile, Goldilocks planet'

Margaret Attwood on climate change

The author looks back on what she wrote about oil in 2009, and reflects on how the conversation has changed in a mere six years
New Dr Seuss manuscript discovered: What Pet Should I Get? goes on sale this week

New Dr Seuss manuscript discovered

What Pet Should I Get? goes on sale this week
Oculus Rift and the lonely cartoon hedgehog who could become the first ever virtual reality movie star

The cartoon hedgehog leading the way into a whole new reality

Virtual reality is the 'next chapter' of entertainment. Tim Walker gives it a try
Ants have unique ability to switch between individual and collective action, says study

Secrets of ants' teamwork revealed

The insects have an almost unique ability to switch between individual and collective action
Donovan interview: The singer is releasing a greatest hits album to mark his 50th year in folk

Donovan marks his 50th year in folk

The singer tells Nick Duerden about receiving death threats, why the world is 'mentally ill', and how he can write a song about anything, from ecology to crumpets
Let's Race simulator: Ultra-realistic technology recreates thrill of the Formula One circuit

Simulator recreates thrill of F1 circuit

Rory Buckeridge gets behind the wheel and explains how it works
Twitter accused of 'Facebookisation' over plans to overhaul reverse-chronological timeline

Twitter accused of 'Facebookisation'

Facebook exasperates its users by deciding which posts they can and can’t see. So why has Twitter announced plans to do the same?
Jane Birkin asks Hermès to rename bag - but what else could the fashion house call it?

Jane Birkin asks Hermès to rename bag

The star was shocked by a Peta investigation into the exotic skins trade
10 best waterproof mascaras

Whatever the weather: 10 best waterproof mascaras

We found lash-enhancing beauties that won’t budge no matter what you throw at them
Diego Costa biography: Chelsea striker's route to the top - from those who shared his journey

Diego Costa: I go to war. You come with me...

Chelsea's rampaging striker had to fight his way from a poor city in Brazil to life at the top of the Premier League. A new book speaks to those who shared his journey
Ashes 2015: England show the mettle to strike back hard in third Test

England show the mettle to strike back hard in third Test

The biggest problem facing them in Birmingham was the recovery of the zeitgeist that drained so quickly under the weight of Australian runs at Lord's, says Kevin Garside
Women's Open 2015: Charley Hull - 'I know I'm a good golfer but I'm also just a person'

Charley Hull: 'I know I'm a good golfer but I'm also just a person'

British teen keeps her feet on ground ahead of Women's Open
Turkey's conflict with Kurdish guerrillas in Iraq can benefit Isis in Syria

Turkey's conflict with Kurdish guerrillas in Iraq can benefit Isis in Syria

Turkish President Erdogan could benefit politically from the targeting of the PKK, says Patrick Cockburn
Yvette Cooper: Our choice is years of Tory rule under Jeremy Corbyn or a return to a Labour government

Our choice is years of Tory rule under Corbyn or a return to a Labour government

Yvette Cooper urged Labour members to 'get serious' about the next general election rather than become 'a protest movement'