By Alan Dymock
EVERY TIME we head to the pub with our mates there is a sort of social one-upmanship where every party has to demonstrate that they know more than the other, that they have their finger on the pulse.
With rugby it is no different, especially when there is no RBS 6 Nations to lean against. There are talking points out there and if you time it just right and keep abreast of the rugby schedule, you can keep one step ahead of those dullards you call friends.
Paddy Jackson’s development (19:05)
The Ulster fly-half started his first game for Ireland on Sunday, but despite a strong showing on the hoof his kicking was wayward. He missed goal and he missed touch. His boot looked rusty.
So in his international week off he is afforded a run out for his province against Treviso in the RaboDirect Pro12, trotting out against the Italian outfit and given the kicking duty – something that normally is handed to scrum-half Ruan Pienaar – in the hope that he can discover some form before Ireland play France in next week’s return to 6 Nations action.
West (Country) is best (20:00)
Not only will Bath v Gloucester be your typical West Country slobber knocker, but there are a lot of stars returning for this clash.
While Mike Tindall looks to play his 150th game for the Cherry and Whites, Freddie Burns looks to run off that knee injury that prevented him from joining the England squad. Wales’ Paul James returns for Bath beside England returnee David Wilson, and Matt Banahan earns reinstatement at the same time as captain Francois Louw.
Can Chiefs turn over Quins? (15:15)
Okay, so both sides like an offload, make breaks and lead the try-scoring charts in the Aviva Premiership. However, Exeter only halted a slide of five consecutive losses at home against London Welsh last week and they are facing a team welcoming back the league’s top marksman, Nick Evans.
Harlequins will want to stay a step ahead of the rest, being only a point clear of Saracens at the top of the Premiership, but they have been beaten by Chiefs already this season and they do give up tries.
Away from the scoring and the flash passing, seeing Tom Hayes facing off against the second-row pairing of George Robson and Nick Easter, making his second appearance of the season in the engine room, could be entertaining enough.
A Super Shark Storm (17:10)
Before Super Rugby kicked off the Stormers were being touted as possible winners of the whole kit and caboodle. Then they met the Bulls and Morne Steyn while they were in the mood.
On Saturday afternoon, the Stormers will again run out away from home, this time into the shark tank of the Kings Park Stadium. The home side have already won a tight game last week against the Cheetahs and it will worry Stormers that the Sharks have already developed a taste for flesh…
Expect at least a single drop of blood.
Poor admin, poor Welsh (14:15)
It is bad enough that London Welsh have a hearing looming, as they face a potential points deduction for fielding an ineligible player – Tyson Keats – for several games. However, the next game they have after getting possibly disastrous news comes against the bullies of the league, Saracens.
Sarries will know how many points they are behind Quins before this game, while Welsh will have to put their problems behind them and turn over Messrs Brits, Borthwick, Fraser, Hodgson, Strettle, and Tompkins.
Their position in the league is starting to look a little bit slippy.