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Aviva Premiership – Round 5 Preview

Round five of the Aviva Premiership sees a number of highly competitive games before Harlequins and Saracens provide the game of the weekend on Sunday afternoon.

Today we see Northampton Saints welcome London Wasps to Franklin’s Gardens. The Saints have been looking formidable so far this season, but they will be concerned by the way they let Worcester back into the game last week, despite winning.

With Courtney Lawes back in the mix though, and that all dominating pack looking as hungry as ever, Saints ought to be confident of a win.

In the later kick off, London Irish travel to Sixways to take on Worcester. Neither side has got off to the best of starts, with London Irish finally winning last week after one of their most shocking starts to a season in recent memory.

Worcester, meanwhile, are yet to win a match, but have looked promising in every game they have played.

After scoring four tries in a stunning comeback last week, only to narrowly lose, their confidence will be as high as it can be for a team with no victories to its name, and it looks likely to be a close game again this week with the Warriors possibly edging it due to home advantage.

On Saturday, Sale Sharks go to Bath still in search of a first win of the season. After sacking their forwards coach Steve Scott after last weeks defeat, Chief Executive Steve Diamond has once again stepped out onto the training field to help out.

Another defeat here and Bryan Redpath will be under serious pressure despite it only being early days in the season. Bath though have their own share of problems after letting Olly Barkley leave the club, they are going to struggle without their main source of points this season, his boot.

Leicester will host an Exeter side full of confidence after defeating Saracens last week. This though will be a different kettle of fish for them, with home advantage, Tigers will not allow themselves to be bullied out of the game like Saracens, and it would be a shock to all to see Exeter beat one of the big guns for the second consecutive week.

London Welsh host Gloucester at the Kassam as they go in search of their third win in succession to defy all of the critics. With confidence running high, and a Gloucester side yet to hit peak form, the possibility is certainly there for the Exiles.

Gloucester do though have the ability to turn on the style, and if they can ignite their backline they have the potential to run up a very big scoreline. What will be key though is matching Welsh’s hunger and work rate in the forwards, particularly early on.

The game of the weekend though is over at the Twickenham Stoop where Harlequins host Saracens. The best attack in the league versus the best defence. Two of the top sides in the country battling it out. To add to the mix, there are a number of key match ups that could potentially decide who plays for England in the Autumn Tests.

In particular, the two full backs, Alex Goode and Mike Brown, are vying for the England 15 shirt, particularly in the wake of Ben Foden’s injury. Whoever performs in this match could well decide the outcome of that particular battle, while elsewhere we are likely to see Ugo Monye trying to force his way into Stuart Lancaster’s thinking as will Saracens’ David Strettle.

As ever though, the forwards will be where this is won and lost, and with Nick Easter in such inspirational form at the moment, he is likely to be the rock around which Quins pack go forward.

The 10 channel will be an area of interest too, with Saracens flip flopping between an ageing but in form Charlie Hodgson, and the bright young thing but out of form Owen Farrell. That will be an absolutely vital selection, as they will be facing probably the player of the season so far, Nick Evans, who has been directing operations for Quins impeccably.

Quins are the form side, and with home advantage and key players playing well, it is hard to look past them here. If Saracens can sort out their midfield selection though, this could be where Quins come unstuck.

Predictions:

Northampton v Wasps: Saints with a bonus point.

Worcester v London Irish: Worcester, Irish with a losing bonus point.

Bath v Sale: Sale to win, Bath losing bonus point.

Leicester v Exeter: Leicester by more than 7.

London Welsh v Gloucester: Gloucester, Welsh to get a losing bonus point.

Harlequins v Saracens: Harlequins to win by more than 7, low scoring game.

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