Budge Pountney will put his dramatic decision to quit Scotland behind him when he turns out for Northampton in their Zurich Premiership game against Wasps at High Wycombe today. The 29-year-old flanker, who ended his five-year, 31-cap international career after a series of disputes with the Scottish Rugby Union and the recent removal of a testicle, will take his place in the Saints back row for a game which is vital to both sides' play-off hopes. Northampton have recalled England hooker Steve Thompson, but a stomach bug has sidelined former All Blacks flanker Andrew Blowers. Josh Lewsey returns to the Wasps bench after a hamstring injury.
Third-placed Leeds' play-off ambitions could hinge on their next two outings – away to Bristol this afternoon and at home to Newcastle on Friday night. The former All Blacks centre Daryl Gibson has taken over the Bristol captaincy from the injured England lock Garath Archer, while Leeds prop Gavin Kerr is recalled in the only change to the side that beat Bath four weeks ago – the Tykes' last match.
Saracens make several changes to the team hammered 51-20 by Gloucester last weekend for the return fixture at Vicarage Road. Kevin Sorrell replaces Ben Johnston at centre, while French prop Christian Califano and England flanker Richard Hill are also recalled. Gloucester have Junior Paramore, Marcel Garvey and Phil Vickery available following injury.
Meanwhile, Saracens are mourning the death of Peter Deakin, their former commercial manager, on Friday. Deakin, who switched from rugby league in the mid-1990s (the first of two spells with the north London club), was respected in both codes for his marketing skills.
Fresh from their cross-code success over St Helens, second-placed Sale have named Jason Robinson, Charlie Hodgson and Bryan Redpath for their trip to London Irish. The Exiles make three changes to the side which beat Rotherham in the Powergen Cup, bringing in Rob Hardwick, Richard Kirke and Kieron Dawson.
England face Samoa in the IRB world series sevens quarter-finals in Brisbane today after topping their group. Harle-quins' Ben Gollings scored two tries and Newcastle's Phil Dowson also went over in a 21-14 win over Fiji. Nathan McAvoy, signed by Saracens from Bradford Bulls last week, crossed twice in the 22-19 defeat of Japan and his new club-mate, Richard Haughton, claimed a try double as England beat the Cook Islands 21-0.
Newport scored 31 points without reply in the second half of last night's Welsh Premiership visit to Ebbw Vale. Trailing 15-6 at half-time, Newport ran out 37-15 winners to go second in the table. The match was a personal triumph for Percy Montgomery, who clocked up 17 points against Pontypridd last weekend. This time Newport's former Springbok full-back helped himself to a try, two conversions, five penalties and a drop goal.
Join our new commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies