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Final countdown for play off and Heineken places in the Aviva Premiership

This weekend is the penultimate round of the Aviva Premiership and with the relegation battle decided last week, with London Welsh going down, the focus rests on the battle for the play offs and for the Heineken Cup places.

With that in mind, there are a number of enticing fixtures ahead, beginning with Bath v Leicester at the Rec on Saturday afternoon. Leicester had a good win against Wasps last time out while Bath lost fairly convincingly to Harlequins to drop out of the top six.

A win for Leicester will guarantee them a home semi final in the play offs, any points at all will be welcome for Bath who are in a three horse race for the final Heineken Cup spot with Exeter and Wasps.

Wasps and Exeter actually play each other on Sunday in High Wycombe and in the Chiefs win it will knock Wasps out of the running for the final Heineken Cup spot. If Bath also lose to Tigers on Saturday and fail to collect a bonus point, or the Chiefs beat Wasps with a bonus point then Exeter will be guaranteed a return to the Heineken Cup.

Should Wasps win though then the battle will continue into the final round of games on the 4th May.

The battle to reach the top four was looking like it would go right down to the wire before the last round of games, however with Gloucester receiving a surprise thumping by Sale Sharks they look somewhat off the pace.

Even a win against Saracens on Saturday may not be enough for them if Harlequins beat Worcester and Northampton beat Sale, while defeat will almost certainly leave them unable to finish in the top four.

Saracens have secured a home semi final though and with a Heineken Cup semi final coming up next week they may just have an eye on that and take their foot off the gas a little at Kingsholm.

Harlequins return to form against Bath last week came just in the nick of time and they will be expecting to win against Worcester at Sixways. However the Warriors have announced the sacking of Richard Hill this week and installed Dean Ryan as Director of Rugby and the move could just spark them into life a little.

On paper Northampton ought to beat Sale with ease in the evening kick off on Saturday, however after Sale’s magnificent performance against Gloucester last week this fixture now looks like far less of a formality.

With the threat of relegation out of the way, Sale may let loose and show their attacking potential again, or they could relax in the knowledge that they are safe and be overwhelmed by a Saints side that are determined to secure a play-off spot; either way it ought to be an entertaining game.

Also on Saturday is the clash of the Exiles; London Irish v London Welsh. London Irish are at home and against the already relegated Welsh they will expect to win, however London Welsh are determined to go out with a bang and if they could pick a fixture that they felt they could win, this would be it.

It promises to be an exciting weekend, Heineken Cup places and Play-off places could be decided or we could see it all boil down to a tense and nervous final weekend on the 4th May.

Fixtures (Predictions in bold):

Saturday:

Bath v Leicester Tigers 14.15

Gloucester v Saracens 15.00

London Irish v London Welsh 15.00

Worcester v Harlequins 15.00

Northampton Saints v Sale Sharks 17.45

Sunday:

London Wasps v Exeter Chiefs 14.00

Aviva Premiership Table

Team

Played

Won

Drawn

Lost

Bonus

Points

1

Saracens

20

16

1

3

6

72

2

Leicester Tigers

20

14

1

5

10

68

3

Harlequins

20

13

0

7

8

60

4

Northampton Saints

20

13

0

7

7

59

5

Gloucester

20

11

1

8

8

54

6

Exeter Chiefs

20

10

1

9

8

50

7

Bath

20

9

1

10

10

48

8

London Wasps

20

9

0

11

11

47

9

Worcester

20

5

1

14

11

33

10

Sale

20

6

1

13

5

31

11

London Irish

20

6

1

13

4

30

12

London Welsh

20

4

0

16

7

18*(R)

*London Welsh deducted 5pts for fielding an ineligible player.

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