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
Warren Gatland will be free to lead the 2017 Lions if asked
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
Enjoyable as it has been to wallow in Jonny Wilkinson’s World Cup-winning dropped goal from 10 years ago, the seminal moment on the minds of current players and coaches in recent days was an offload by an All Black last weekend.
Knee trouble sees loose-head prop join fellow front-rowers Mako Vunipola and Joe Marler on the casualty list
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.
Injuries force coach to retain winger for Argentina match despite his lack of form
Leicester v Northampton
Leicester, the reigning English champions, have some serious rugby ahead of them over the next month: a humdinger derby with high-performing Northampton this weekend, quickly followed by a horribly difficult Heineken Cup trip to Belfast, a must-win home match with Treviso in the same competition and an awkward Premiership contest at Wasps – a game they will have to play without their England personnel, who will be in red-rose camp by then.
Hosts record their first Aviva Premiership victory after 10 consecutive defeats to life spirits
Harlequins v Saracens
Statistically speaking, there is as much chance of Gloucester prevailing on their first visit to Saracens’ all-weather Allianz Park tomorrow as there is of Private Eye being nice to Michael Gove, throwing its unqualified support behind Boris Johnson or deciding that the sweetheart deals between big business and the British tax authorities are perfectly fair and reasonable after all.
Chris Robshaw admitted his relief at Harlequins’ narrow opening day victory over Wasps after seeing Andy Goode miss a penalty with the final kick at Twickenham on Saturday.
London Irish 20 Saracens 42
Chiefs seek unlikely win at Northampton as England prospects grace Twickenham