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Aviva Premiership – Round 8 preview

The Aviva Premiership returns with Round 8, the final round before the start of the Autumn Internationals giving a final chance for players to go from squad member to potential starter.

The weekend kicks off this evening with London Irish travelling to Sale looking to avenge their last minute defeat to a controversial Harlequins try last week. Sale meanwhile are in disarray following yet another defeat, this time against Worcester, leaving them without a win still.

Furthermore they have announced this week that Bryan Redpath has been move ‘sideways’ from Director of Rugby to Head Coach, while their Chief Executive, Steve Diamond, has appointed himself as Director of Rugby.

In an even more bizarre twist, it appears that the club will be run by a ‘Rugby Strategy Management Board’, chaired by owner Brian Kennedy, with Diamond, Redpath, co-owner Ian Blackhurst, and former All Blacks coach, John Mitchell, all sitting on this new board.

This managerial shake up puts even more pressure on Sale to win this evening, particularly after showing signs of improvement over the last few weeks.

Arguably the biggest game of the weekend is on Saturday when Leicester welcome Northampton to Welford Road. Both sides are depleted through injury and international duty, though Ben Youngs has returned to Leicester and Phil Dowson to Saints.

One of the interesting sub plots to this match is the return of flanker Callum Clark to the Saints side after his 32 week ban for breaking Leicester’s Rob Hawkins’ arm. It will be interesting to see what sort of treatment he receives form the Tigers pack.

Exeter versus Worcester is also on Saturday and Worcester will be looking to build on their victory against Sale last week. Exeter are without Tom Johnson who is on England duty and after a couple of defeats in a row are looking for a win just to stop the slide in momentum.

Champions Harlequins will meanwhile be hosting Gloucester in what should, in theory, be one of the most exciting games of the season between two of the most attacking sides in the Premiership.

Harlequins are without several England players, though Mike Brown and George Robson have returned for the game while Nick Easter, fresh from signing a new contract, is fit again and back in the starting line up.

Gloucester meanwhile are without flying winger Charlie Sharples, however the form player in the league at the moment, James Simpson-Daniel, starts again and will be looking to show Stuart Lancaster what he is missing.

Sunday sees Wasps travel to Saracens looking to build on their impressive home form, where wingers Christian Wade and Tom Varndell have been terrorising defences. However, their away form has been far less impressive, and Saracens have been looking in increasingly formidable form.

Shorn of a few of their England stars though, Saracens will be glad to still have the experience of Charlie Hodgson at fly-half and will expect their strong kick chase game to stifle Wasps.

The final game of the weekend brings Bath to the Kassam to face London Welsh. Welsh’s form has slipped after a couple of wins a few weeks back and a home win would just help to halt the slide in momentum.

However, Bath have been steadily growing this season having begun very pragmatically they are slowly expanding their play with each passing week, despite the weather, and will be hoping to come away form this with a bonus point victory it would seem.

Predictions:

Sale v London Irish: Sale, Irish to get a losing bonus.

Leicester v Northampton: Leicester by a score or more.

Exeter v Worcester: Exeter, Worcester with a losing bonus point.

Harlequins v Gloucester: Harlequins, Gloucester to get a losing bonus in a high scoring game.

Saracens v Wasps: Saracens by over 7 points.

London Welsh v Bath: Bath with a bonus point.

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