Weekend preview: Wasps prepare Wade and Varndell to pull plug on Bath's hopes

 

Exeter v Northampton

A "no prisoners" kind of game in prospect. Northampton deprived the Devonians of a place in last season's play-offs and after their fine Heineken Cup win in Ulster and last week's desperately close shave against Saracens, they are in a good place to hurt them again – not least because Exeter have lost their much-improved loose-head prop Brett Sturgess to long-term injury. The Saints have two of their most effective forwards, Samu Manoa and Tom Wood, on the bench, but are fully armed outside the scrum. Exeter have picked their quickest flank combination in Tom Johnson and Ben White.

Gloucester v London Irish

Alex Corbisiero, such an influential figure for England during the autumn, returns to the Exiles' front row with a big question mark hovering over his future at the club. Northampton are said to be his preferred employers for next season. Jonathan Joseph, asked to play on the wing today, is another red-rose player apparently heading out – to Bath, in his case. Irish could do without the uncertainty, given their parlous position in the table, and with Gloucester picking from strength, this is another difficult outing. Tom Savage, a big contributor this term, returns to the Cherry and White engine room.

London Welsh v Harlequins

Like newly promoted sides before them – Exeter spring to mind – London Welsh are least comfortable against opponents capable of maintaining a high tempo. Wasps demonstrated as much last week and Quins, table-toppers by a point, will not exactly be short of gas either, especially with Tom Guest and George Lowe back in the starting line-up at flanker and centre respectively. The home side have done brilliantly thus far, but they remain vulnerable. The sooner Gavin Henson and Hudson Tonga'uiha return from injury to boost their midfield, the better placed they will be to secure the points that will keep them up.

Saracens v Sale

Mark McCall, the Saracens coach, promised to give Owen Farrell game time in his England position of outside-half, and he has been good to his word. Farrell performs the pivot role tomorrow. With Steve Borthwick back from a week's rest, the home side look seriously well-equipped up front, and it will be interesting to see if the rugged flanker Will Fraser continues to make his presence felt. Sale? They are quite a cabaret at the moment, what with sackings, retirements and other forms of sudden departures. Vicarage Road is not the place to go when you are eyeball-deep in turmoil.

Wasps v Bath

The most intriguing game of the weekend pits one of the Premiership's sharpest attacks against one of its least penetrable defences. Wasps have Christian Wade and Tom Varndell on the wings, both of whom might still be in a respectable distance of Usain Bolt at the end of a 100m dash, and have plumped for an interesting back-row combination featuring two players blessed with a touch of stardust in Ashley Johnson and Billy Vunipola. Bath need a performance: if they draw a blank tomorrow, their prospects of securing a Heineken Cup place next season will look far from healthy.

BUY RUGBY WORLD CUP TICKETS

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
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

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before