Leicester Tigers hit the top of the Aviva Premiership Rugby table following their victory at Exeter on Sunday, a spot previously held by the Northampton Saints since round eight, their opponents on Saturday on what is the game of the round. The Tigers have lost only one of their last seven matches in all competitions, while Northampton Saints slipped up at home to Harlequins on New Year’s Day but have not lost successive encounters since April. The home side almost always wins this encounter between the fierce East Midlands rivals so the Tigers will be favourites, but only just from a Northampton side that is smarting from their shock defeat last weekend. And if you are without satellite tv don’t forget you can tune into ITV4 at 10pm on Sunday evenings for their highlights show.
Friday 7th January – Newcastle Falcons v Sale Sharks (Kingston Park, 7.45pm)
TV: Live ESPN HD
Referee: Tim Wigglesworth (29th Premiership game)
Newcastle Falcons’ only victory in their last eight Aviva Premiership Rugby encounters was 12-6 at home to Gloucester on 21 November. The Falcons have won their last three home games in all competitions, although because of the inclement weather the most recent of those was played “over the border” in Galashiels.
Sale Sharks ended a five game losing run in all competitions with their 28-22 victory at home to Saracens on Sunday. The Sharks have recorded just one win away from home in the Premiership since November 2009: 6-3 at Leeds on 22 October.
Sale won 35-18 when the two teams met in round one and are going for a first ever league double over the Falcons in the same season. The Sharks’ only previous win at Kingston Park came in 2008.
Saturday 8th January – Bath Rugby v Leeds Carnegie (Recreation Ground, 2.15pm)
TV: Not Live
Referee: JP Doyle (19th Premiership game)
Bath Rugby’s five game losing run came to an end at London Irish on New Year’s Day, whilst Bath’s only win at the Rec in any competition since September was 29-19 over Cardiff Blues in the Anglo-Welsh Cup on 5 November.
Leeds Carnegie began 2011 in the best possible way with a maiden season’s victory in Aviva Premiership Rugby at home against Gloucester. Leeds have won their last three matches in all competitions.
Bath have won their last six encounters with Leeds in all competitions, whilst Leeds have not won at the Rec since 25 November 2005.
Saturday 8th January – Harlequins v London Wasps (Twickenham Stoop, 2.45pm)
TV: Live on Sky Sports
Referee: Wayne Barnes (88th Premiership game)
Harlequins have won their last four games in all competitions and on Sunday became the first team this season to defeat Northampton on their own patch. Quins’ only home loss since February 2010 was 16-20 to Northampton on 11 September.
London Wasps have lost just one of their last eight matches in all competitions: 6-13 against Saracens at Wembley Stadium on Boxing Day.
Harlequins have not beaten Wasps since November 2008, although the two clubs did draw 29-all at Twickenham in round one of Aviva Premiership Rugby.
Saturday 8th January – Gloucester Rugby v Exeter Chiefs (Kingsholm 3pm)
TV: Not Live
Referee: Martin Fox (62nd Premiership game)
Gloucester Rugby have lost their last two matches in all competitions but have not lost three in a row since November 2009. Gloucester are unbeaten at Kingsholm in the Premiership since Wasps were the visitors on 24 October 2009.
Exeter Chiefs have slipped to successive defeats in Aviva Premiership Rugby, although have managed to tally at least one league point in six of their last seven matches.
The Chiefs won 22-10 when the two teams met at Sandy Park in round one, but have lost on both of their previous visits to Kingsholm for a competitive match – in the cup in 1982 and 2002.
Saturday 8th January – Leicester Tigers v Northampton Saints (Welford Road, 5pm)
TV: Live on Sky Sports
Referee: Dave Pearson (150th Premiership game)
Leicester Tigers hit the top of the Aviva Premiership Rugby table following their victory at Exeter on Sunday, a spot previously held by the Saints since round eight. The Tigers have lost only one of their last seven matches in all competitions.
Northampton Saints slipped up at home to Harlequins on New Year’s Day but have not lost successive encounters since April. The Saints are unbeaten in their last five away games in all competitions.
The last six clashes between the two great East Midlands adversaries have all been won by the home side on the day, including the 27-19 Saints victory at Franklin’s Gardens in round one. Northampton are going for a first season’s league double over the Tigers since 2003/04.
Dave Pearson becomes just the second referee after Chris White to take charge of 150 Premiership matches.
Sunday 9th January – Saracens v London Irish (Vicarage Road, 3pm)
TV: No live coverage
Refere: David Rose (82nd Premiership game)
Saracens’ patchy recent form continued with their 22-28 reversal at the hands of Sale Sharks on Sunday – a run which has seen them claim a won 3, lost 3 record from their last six Aviva Premiership Rugby matches.
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London Irish have slipped from the top of the table in round seven to now sit in fifth place, picking up just one league point from their last five matches, representing their poorest run in the Premiership since season 1997/98.
The Exiles won 33-16 when the two clubs met at Twickenham in the London Double Header in September, but have not achieved a league double over Saracens since 2005/06.