THE FOURTH round of the Aviva Premiership is upon us and even at this early stage things are getting tight. After four games the big ‘C’ word can be blurted out by angry fans (crisis) and the bottom segment of the league is already looking as likely to drag you in and destroy you as a pie and pint smoothie.
So onwards we lurch.
Saints v Sharks
Did Northampton deserve to lose last week? Maybe not, many of you could contend. But they did, and they’ll be smarting. Sharks on the other hand, have had a second win of the season against Wasps at the weekend.
They have a blitzed squad now, though, with several casualties hobbling around Greater Manchester and Danny Cipriani is back into the line-up to either aid them or lead them reeling into a merry dance their unable to keep up with. It probably doesn’t help that Saints welcome back Alex Corbisiero.
Rugby World’s prediction: Saints by 18.
Bath v Irish
The big news for Bath is that Kyle Eastmond is back after crawling out of the first game of the season, joining Jonatha Joseph in the middle. Dave Attwood is in as skipper with Stuart Hooper on the bench. Matt Garvey is on the blindside.
For Irish the Leo Halavatau starts at tight-head and Topsy Ojo switches to full-back. Kieran Low plays openside.
Can Irish frighten Bath at the Rec? It may be relatively close, but with George Ford starting again and confident, a few kicks could make the difference.
Rugby World’s prediction: Bath by 9.
Wasps v Warriors
Three losses from three betrays the way Wasps have battled, but they face the other side who has lost every single game and who have less bonus points, Worcester.
Which could mean this is the weekend’s hardest fought match.
Elliot Daly returns to Wasps’ centre while Worcester bring back Euan Murray and Chris Jones.
Rugby World’s prediction: Wasps by 2.
Quins v Sarries
When two of the big dogs meet it makes little sense to ring the changes, so Harlequins have an identical starting side to the one that defeated Worcester last Friday while Saracens have made one switch, swapping Ernst Joubert out for a fit again Kelly Brown.
This will be a slobber-knocker, but there are plenty of match winners out there for this one.
Rugby World’s prediction: Saracens by 3.
Chiefs v Tigers
Playing Exeter in Exeter is always a tricky proposition and Leicester have been bushwhacked at Sandy Park before. However, they Louis Deacon, Anthony Allen, Tom Youngs, Dan Cole, Geoff Parling, Julian Salvi and Niall Morris all make comebacks and Niki Goneva moves to the centre that Manu Tuilagi has had to pull out of due to a pectoral injury.
The Chiefs, meanwhile, have brought Dave Ewers in at No.8.
Rugby World’s prediction: Tigers 10.
Falcons v Gloucester
The Scots are back as Falcons play in their favoured, family-friendly Sunday slot as Mike Blair comes back in at scrum-half and Ally Hogg returns at No.8.
On the other end, rollercoaster Gloucester have Jonny May starting for the first time this season and Ben Morgan has finally done enough to start in the back-row alongside Matt Kvesic. Shaun Knight comes in at tight-head and Will James comes in to the second-row for young Elliott Stooke.
Rugby World’s prediction: Gloucester by 6.
Think you can do better than us with your predictions? Make your own guesses in our SuperBru pool: here!Like Rugby World? Subscribe to the magazine for the latest comprehensive content.