Under pressure reigning Champions London Wasps travel to Leicester on Friday still in search of their first win of the season while fellow struggling pair Newcastle and Bristol clash at Kingston Park.
Rugby 365 reports that the Tigers take on the Wasps in their first encounter since last years final at Twickenham and have experience vastly different starts to the new campaign.
Wasps, the defending Guinness Premiership Champions, are one of only two teams who have failed to win a game in the opening three rounds and must now win at the home of the early league leaders to get their season back on track.
This match up though is about more than just the league. These two giants have recent history and could not be any more different – a fact England lock Ben Kay is not afraid to point out.
Speaking to the Leicester Mercury Kay said: “I am sure they hate us as much as we hate them,
“They are a London club and perhaps where some of their guys prefer a night out; there may be a few more family guys at this club.”
Kay though dismissed any idea that his in-form team could have things all their own way when the countries top two teams in last season campaign clash this weekend.
“Having lost three games will make this one like a Cup final to them and we all know how dangerous they are in a Cup final.”
The Londoners will be without star flanker James Haskell as he serves his one-week ban. Haskell’s absence is one of four changes to the Wasps team which also sees Mark “Sharky” Robinson get his first start for his new club.
Leicester boss, Heyneke Meyer has opted for just three forward changes to his all-conquering Tigers side and says he is still looking for an improvement from his new charges.
“We have won three games from the start of the season and, while we have to be happy with that, we know there is more to come from the team and the aim is to keep improving in every game,” said Meyer.
Wasps director of Rugby Ian McGeechan must surely not be a happy man after his sides opening three weeks in the new season and, one would hope, will have them fired up and ready for battle in Friday’s must win.
Elsewhere on Friday, Gloucester take on the undefeated Sale Sharks while bottom of the log Bristol travel to hapless Newcastle keen to score their first win of the season.
Steve Bates has made three changes to his team that went down 44-14 to Saracens last weekend – All Black prop forward Joe McDonnell, hooker Matt Thompson and winger Tim Visser all get their chance in the starting lineup.
Bristol’s head man Richard Hill has shown his hand somewhat and has opted for experience to try and help his team off the bottom of the Guinness Prem log. After another loss at home last week against the Sharks Hill and his men are in need of a moral boost this weekend.
“We’ll need as much experience as we can up at Newcastle, this is what we’re relying on with the likes of Matt Salter, Roy Winters and Mark Regan coming back in to the squad.
“To have them around in the dressing room makes a huge difference for us and Newcastle on a Friday night is very tough prospect – it’s not an easy place to go and win – so we need our old heads in there.”
Both Gloucester coach Dean Ryan and Sales Shark Director of Rugby Philippe Saint Andre have rung the changes ahead of their clash at Edgeley Park as both teams gear up for a manic eight days.
With three big match-ups in such a short space of time the two squads are being stretched but neither team boss expects any drop in their performance.
Ryan has made a massive nine changes to his team that was successful against Harlequins last week but says he is happy with the side he will put out against the Sharks.
“Our victory last weekend was very important and now we must try and build on it. I am excited about this line-up. If we can get in the right areas of the field I am confident we can be a threat against most sides.”
His French counterpart has made a comparatively small amount of changes, opting for just six new faces from the start. He too though is comfortable with the quality of the depth he believes his squad will have.
“I have rotated the squad a little for this game as it’s the first of three games in eight days. These three games are all important to us, as a club, and will show how good our squad is, as most of them will get some game time. said Director of Rugby Philippe Saint Andre.
Weekend fixtures, teams and predictions:
Friday, September 26
Leicester v Wasps, 20.05 local time (19.05 SA time)
Referee: Wayne Barnes
Leicester Tigers: 15 Geordan Murphy, 14 Tom Varndell, 13 Matt Smith, 12 Aaron Mauger, 11 Johne Murphy, 10 Toby Flood, 9 Julien Dupuy, 1 Marcos Ayerza, 2 Benjamin Kayser, 3 Dan Cole, 4 Martin Corry (c), 5 Marco Wentzel, 6 Tom Croft, 7 Ben Woods, 8 Jordan Crane.
Replacements: 16 George Chuter, 17 Julian White, 18 Ben Kay, 19 Ben Herring, 20 Ben Youngs, 21 Tom Youngs, 22 Ayoola Erinle.
London Wasps: 15 Tom Voyce, 14 Paul Sackey, 13 Dominic Waldouck, 12 Riki Flutey, 11 Josh Lewsey, 10 Jeremy Staunton, 9 Mark Robinson, 1 Tim Payne, 2 Rob Webber, 3 Phil Vickery (c), 4 Richard Birkett, 5 Tom Palmer, 6 Joe Worsley, 7 Tom Rees, 8 John Hart.
Replacements: 16 Damien Varley, 17 Pat Barnard, 18 Dan Leo, 19 Serge Betsen, 20 Eoin Reddan, 21 Dave Walder, 22 Rob Hoadley.
rugby365.com prediction: It would be a brave man to bet against the strong Tigers side at home after three good wins and up against a team who are battling for form. Rugby365 though are that brave man, defending Champs to step up and take it by three.
Friday, September 26
Newcastle v Bristol, 20.00 local time (19.00 SA time)
Referee: Chris White
Newcastle: 15 Alex Tait, 14 Tim Visser, 13 Jamie Noon, 12 Tom May, 11 John Rudd, 10 Jonny Wilkinson, 9 James Grindal, 8 Phil Dowson (c), 7 Ed Williamson, 6 Adam Balding, 5 Mark Sorenson, 4 Andy Perry, 3 Carl Hayman, 2 Matt Thompson, 1 Joe McDonnell.
Replacements: 16 Andy Long, 17 Micky Ward, 18 Tim Swinson, 19 Russell Winter, 20 Hall Charlton, 21 Spencer Davey, 22 Rory Clegg.
Bristol: 15 Vunga Lilo, 14 Tom Arscott, 13 Neil Brew, 12 Luke Arscott, 11 David Lemi, 10 Ed Barnes, 9 Graeme Beveridge, 8 Dan Ward-Smith, 7 Joe El Abd (c), 6 Matt Salter, 5 Nathan Budgett, 4 Roy Winters, 3 Jason Hobson, 2 Scott Linklater, 1 Alex Clarke.
Replacements: 16 Mark Regan, 17 Peter Bracken, 18 Robert Sidoli, 19 Andrew Blowers, 20 Haydn Thomas, 21 Chris Ashwin, 22 Greg Barden
rugby365.com prediction: Newcastle need to dominate up front if they are going to have a chance but even that may not be enough. Don’t expect it to be pretty and don’t expect it to be a classic. Do though expect Bristol to win by eight at least.
Friday, September 26
Sale v Gloucester, 19.45 local time (19.45 SA time)
Referee: Andrew Small
Sale Sharks: 15 Rory Lamont, 14 Mathew Tait, 13 Luke McAlister, 12 Lee Thomas, 11 David Doherty, 10 Charlie Hodgson, 9 Richard Wigglesworth, 8 Sebastien Chabal, 7 Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe, 6 Kristian Ormsby, 5 Sean Cox, 4 Brent Cockbain, 3 Stuart Turner, 2 Sebastien Bruno, 1 Lionel Faure.
Replacements: 16 Neil Briggs, 17 Eifion Roberts, 18 Dean Schofield, 19 Jason White, 20 Dwayne Peel, 21 Chris Bell, 22 Mark Cueto.
Gloucester: 15 Iain Balshaw, 14 James Simpson-Daniel, 13 Matthew Watkins, 12 Olly Barkley, 11 Lesley Vainikolo, 10 Ryan Lamb, 9 Rory Lawson, 8 Luke Narraway, 7 Andy Hazell, 6 Peter Buxton (capt), 5 Alex Brown, 4 Marco Bortolami, 3 Dave Young, 2 Olivier Azam, 1 Alasdair Dickinson.
Replacements: 16 Andy Titterrell, 17 Nick Wood, 18 Alasdair Strokosch, 19 Apo Satala, 20 Gareth Cooper, 21 Mike Tindall, 22 Willie Walker.
rugby365.com prediction: This is actually a tough one to call for us. Both sides have won their last two but something has got to give. Sale have the best defence in the league so far and in a tight game you go with those who can hold out. Sale to win by five.
BATH v WORCESTER – Quotes and Teams to follow
14.15 local time (13.15 SA time)
The Recreation Ground
Referee: Rob Debney
After a narrow home defeat to the Tigers last weekend the Warrior head to Bath looking for their second win of the season. The home side produced a strong performance to overcome London Irish at the Madjeski last weekend and will be looking for another good performance to build on their positive start to the new season.
HARLEQUINS v LONDON IRISH – Quotes and Teams to follow
15.00 local time (14.00 SA time)
Referee: Dean Richards
Two sides coming off four point defeats from last weekend go head to head in what is expected to be another tight match-up.
SARACENS v NORTHAMPTON – Quotes and Teams to follow
14.45 local time (13.45 SA time)
Referee: Martin Fox
Saracens earned their first set of full points for the season with a 44-14 win over Newcastle last weekend and will be hoping to make it two in a row as they host Northampton. The Saints are enjoying a good start to the season after returning from the second tier but will want to build on their fantastic win over last years Champions at Vicarage Road just a few days ago.Tweet