Cipriani finds himself on the cusp of an unlikely England return due to a flood of injuries in the Premiership but Smith feels he has more than enough players capable of giving Sale their own problems
England's leading clubs may not know who the hell they will be playing next season, thanks to the latest rampant outbreak of political squabbling over Europe, but the uncertainty has not stopped London Irish negotiating a bright new future for themselves. The Exiles, badly strapped for cash in recent seasons, are on the point of confirming a takeover by a consortium headed by an Irish businessman, Mick Crossan, who made his pile in recycling and waste management.
This is getting silly. England's chances of piecing together something resembling a first-choice back division for the Six Nations opener against France in Paris at the beginning of February took another heavy blow when the Wasps wing Christian Wade was ruled off-limits for six months. The most elusive attacking runner in the country will miss the forthcoming tournament in its entirety and must be rated extremely doubtful for the three-Test tour of New Zealand in June.
Player will miss the entire 6 Nations after damaging foot ligaments
If there’s a crumb of comfort, New Zealand don’t like Twickenham
Forget the scrummaging machine and the midfield playbook; make way for the stethoscope, the thermometer and the neurocognitive assessment kit. This weekend’s “vengeance match” between England and New Zealand already has the makings of a medical drama as well as a sporting one, with the home camp expressing concern over the concussion suffered by the loose-head prop Joe Marler during the victory over Argentina three days ago and the tourists taking every anti-virus precaution under the sun.
Argentina are exploring the four corners of the earth. Since late summer the Pumas have roamed the southern hemisphere, to South Africa, New Zealand and Australia. Now it is time for the northern hemisphere, the air miles ticking ever upwards.
Ben Foden comes in on the left wing as Joe Marler, Dylan Hartley and David Wilson form new front-three
Leicester v Northampton
Young fly-half puts his hand up for England after leading first-half demolition of Irish
Harlequins v Saracens
The first episode of brand new Channel 4 sitcom London Irish opened and closed with the four twentysomething Northern Irish expat protagonists getting bladdered in the pub. That's right, writer Lisa McGee (a Londonderry woman herself) isn't afraid to confront those national stereotypes head on. This would also explain the scene riffing on a certain budget airline's baggage policy, and the cameo from Father Ted's Ardal O'Hanlon.
A look ahead to Saturday's Aviva Premiership action
Rob Baxter, the Exeter coach, was relieved to hear the final whistle at Sandy Park on Saturday as his side came perilously close to throwing away the points against Wasps.
Bath’s high-profile coaching group led by Gary Gold arrived midway through 2012, so by necessity they spent last season, when the Rec crew finished seventh out of 12 in the Premiership, juggling their predecessors’ resources. Not any more. As Matt Banahan, the scorer of Bath’s second try in Saturday’s 27-20 win over Leicester, put it: “You have always got a settling in period with coaches and with players. Coaches obviously want their squad and the players they want to come in, and sometimes they are working with players when they would rather have different ones. So this year we have had that teething out of the way and we have got a squad we want to build on.”
England centre Brad Barritt will miss the autumn internationals after undergoing foot surgery, his club Saracens have announced.