Kyle Eastmond returns for Bath
September 27, 2013
Kyle Eastmond returns for Bath after missing the last two games © Getty Images
Saracens are sitting pretty at the top of the Aviva Premiership after three rounds with the maximum of 15 points to their name but they will face a true test of their ability when they travel to the Stoop to face Harlequins this weekend. That match is one of three on Saturday with the other games seeing winless Wasps hosting Worcester at Adams Park and London Irish travelling to Bath. On Sunday, Leicester Tigers venture south to the Exeter Chiefs and Gloucester head the other way to Newcastle Falcons.
So ahead of round four of the Premiership, we bring you a rundown of all the latest team news.
Northampton Saints v Sale SharksFranklin's Gardens, Friday, 1945 BST
Saints boss Jim Mallinder has opted to rest England's Tom Wood who is named on the bench. Alex Corbisiero was left out of the Saints' squad for their defeat to Gloucester last weekend but he returns to their starting line-up in one of five changes. Kahn Fotuali'i drops to the bench with Lee Dickson starting while Corbisiero comes into the side for Alex Waller at loose-head. George Pisi, Courtney Lawes and Phil Dowson all start with Stephen Myler making his 200th appearance for the Saints.
Sale have handed Danny Cipriani his first start of the season in one of four changes made. The other three all occur in the pack with Eifion Lewis Roberts, Vadim Colbilas and Mark Easter all starting. Sale have also revealed a lengthy casualty list with Dwayne Peel sidelined through a hamstring injury and James Gaskell injured with a broken bone in his foot. Josh Beaumont is also out with a 'long-term' injury while Sam Tuitupou and Johnny Leota both have broken jaws.
Prediction: Saints by 15
Bath Rugby v London IrishRecreation Ground, Saturday, 1500
Dave Attwood captains Bath and partners Dom Day in their second-row. Paul James starts at loose-head while Matt Garvey comes in at blindside. Peter Stringer and George Ford renew their half-back partnership, with Matt Banahan resuming his role on the wing opposite Semesa Rokoduguni. Kyle Eastmond returns to the side and partners Jonathan Joseph in the centres.
London Irish have swapped three with Leo Halavatau coming into the front-row to replace Halani Aulika who ruptured his Achilles tendon last weekend. Halavatau will start alongside David Paice and Matt Parr. Kieran Low has recovered from injury to take his place in the back row where he will partner Declan Danaher and Ofisa Treviranus. Alex Lewington moves to the wing and Topsy Ojo starts at full back.
Elliot Daly is back for Wasps © Getty Images
Prediction: Bath by 12
London Wasps v Worcester WarriorsAdams Park, Saturday, 1500
Elliot Daly returns for Wasps in the centres while Nathan Hughes gets the nod at No.8. On the bench, Jack Moates is poised for his first Wasps appearance, with Joe Simpson ruled out as a precaution after taking a knock to the head last weekend.
For the Warriors, George Porter makes his first appearance in over nine months. Euan Murray and Chris Jones are recalled to the side and Semisi Taulava will add firepower at No.8 in a back-row also featuring captain Jonathan Thomas and Jake Abbott. New signing Dean Hammond is handed a place on the bench alongside Chris Brooker.
Prediction: Wasps by 10
Harlequins v SaracensThe Stoop, Saturday, 1515
Harlequins' starting line-up is unchanged from the one that beat Worcester with Matt Hopper replacing Sam Smith on the bench.
Mark McCall has made only one change to the team that beat Bath last weekend, with Kelly Brown replacing Ernst Joubert in the back row. Brown starts alongside Jacques Burger who is at openside and Billy Vunipola at No.8. Jackson Wray is back in the mix, named as a substitute as Nick Auterac, Michael Tagicaikibau and Jack Wilson all come into the matchday squad for the first time this season.
Prediction: Saracens by three
Exeter Chiefs v Leicester TigersSandy Park, Sunday, 1400
Exeter make one change with Dave Ewers returning at No.8 and Tom Johnson reverts back to blindside. Ben White drops to the bench following the inclusion of Ewers.
Vereniki Goneva gets the nod in the centres for the Tigers © Getty Images
Louis Deacon and Anthony Allen return for the Tigers and Richard Cockerill also recalls Tom Youngs, Dan Cole, Geoff Parling, Julian Salvi and Niall Morris after they sat out last Saturday's win over the Falcons due to rotation. Vereniki Goneva moves to centre with Manu Tuilagi out injured and Blaine Scully is on the wing as Morris returns at full-back.
Prediction: Tigers by four
Newcastle Falcons v Gloucester RugbyKingston Park, Sunday, 1500
Mike Blair returns to the XV in one of four changes to the side that fell to the Tigers. Blair replaces Warren Fury, while there is a new-look front-row with hooker Matt Thompson and tighthead Oliver Tomaszczyk getting the nod alongside Franck Montanella. Ally Hogg starts at No.8 in place of Chris York, who drops to the bench.
Gloucester change four from the side that beat the Saints last weekend. Jonny May gets his first start of the season on the left wing with the other changes in the pack with Shaun Knight, Will James and Ben Morgan all starting.
Prediction: Falcons by three
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