Round-up: Tigers keep feet on ground

Dour, even withering realism tends to be the done thing at Welford Road - something to do with the Midlands air, perhaps - however many trophies Leicester bring back from their travels. Interview Martin Johnson, and ask even a minorly fatuous question, and you'll soon realise that.

So Ollie Smith's comments before this afternoon's match at Headingley, where the runaway Premiership leaders take on a Leeds side dangerously adrift at the bottom, should be seen as entirely in the character of his club.

"We have struggled at Headingley in the past and the last time we played the side propping up the table, we lost to Northampton," said the young England centre, whose last club appearance was in an 83-10 marmalisation of Newcastle. "Hopefully the same will not happen this weekend, but it's going to be a tough match. Leeds are not as bad a side as their league position shows. We won't be underestimating them."

All true, but 40 points separate the sides. Leeds, seven from safety now, have a heck of a lot to do and will have to do it without Iain Balshaw, whose England return cost him a knee injury. Leicester welcome back Martin Corry and Julian White to join Johnson and Neil Back up front. Lewis Moody is on the bench and Smith, Harry Ellis, Andy Goode and the unfeasibly dangerous Geordan Murphy lurk behind the scrum.

At Kingston Park Newcastle meet injury-raddled Bath, who have the scrum-half Andy Williams at outside-centre for a change - instead of on the wing. The highly rated but rarely seen Welsh back-rower Gareth Delve starts, presuming nothing inopportune twangs or snaps when he gets off the coach.

Newcastle, who have Matt Burke back on the bench, and Bath are jockeying for points and position for the great end of season play-off lottery. Leeds, of course, will have one eye firmly on events in National League One.

Bristol and Exeter, the main pretenders to the Premiership, play today. Yesterday Plymouth Albion kept their notional interest alive with a 26-22 win over the Pirates of Penzance/Newlyn. Otley, the Yorkshire awkward squad who dented Exeter's ambitions a couple of weeks ago, won 26-6 away to Rotherham to stay fourth.

Half a world away from Clifton Lane and Cross Green's rickety benches and vaseline fumes - and from all those monotonous arguments about stadium standards and Premiership places - a record 34 points from the full-back Peter Hewat helped the New South Wales Waratahs stay top of the Super 12 with a 42-12 thumping of South Africa's Bulls under the Sydney Football Stadium's eliptical roof.

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