Momentum the key
Sky Bet's rugby union expert tells us where to place your money at the start of the year.
By Jordan Fiddes - Twitter: @SkyJordanFiddes
Last Updated: 03/01/14 3:33pm
It's the first round of 2014 for all of the Aviva Premiership sides and this weekend New Year's resolutions will be top of the agenda for most clubs.
For Newcastle Falcons it'll be "maintain momentum" from late 2013 in the New Year as they take on a Sale Sharks side who have had a very mixed start to the campaign.
There is not too much to choose from in the betting between these two but the current standings make the Sharks slight favourites at 8/13.
There is already some interest in the Falcons at 6/5, however, and, with the home side winning the last three games against Sale, it's obvious to see why.
Dean Richard's men finished last year with something of a flourish, almost doubling their try tally for the season against London Wasps in the final round of 2013.
That has seen Newcastle go odds on to score 15 points or more for the second game running against a Sharks side who have conceded as many tries as they have scored this term.
Mark Cueto is the visitor's best hope for a try at 11/1 and, having scored six times already this season - including the first try against Worcester in round eight, he is good value.
Also popular in the try scorer markets this weekend is Northampton flyer George North as his side welcome Harlequins to Franklin's Gardens.
The Welsh man mountain has enjoyed a good start to his Saints career in 2013, including two tries, but will be hoping to kick on after a recent fall-out with his employers.
He is boosted to 8/1 to cross the whitewash first and, with a home semi-final on the horizon, the home side will be looking to send the ball out wide as often as possible.
Jim Mallinder's men have a nine-point handicap to contend with at even money, something they have not done against Harlequins since January 2012.
Gloucester enjoyed a fruitful start to 2013, yet still find themselves in ninth position on the Premiership ladder.
Like Newcastle, they'll be hoping to continue their end-of-year form after winning their last two games in the competition.
They will have to do it tough this week though as they host leaders Saracens who have lost just one game this season - only the third team in history to do that at the turn of the year.
First placed Sarries are 4/7 to win the game which seems short considering they have won just once at Kingsholm since 2005.
However, the home of the Cherry and Whites is not the fortress it once was and, prior to a late surge last year, they had lost three in a row in front of their own supporters.
With odds so short for this one, it's much better value going for Saracens on the -4 handicap at 10/11.
Having already scored 333 points prior to the start of the year, they clearly have no problems turning possession into points - something the bookies expect them to do again in round 12.
Statement of intent
The most appealing game of the weekend comes at Welford Road as reigning champions Leicester entertain one of their rivals for the play-offs, Bath.
Currently in third, Mike Ford's men have been a revelation in 2013 and will put a huge case forward for a top four finish should they beat Leicester on Sunday.
They are 12/5 to upset the Premiership giants but, some excellent form this season, makes them popular amongst punters.
Prior to their loss against Northampton last time out, they were on an 11-match winning run in all competitions, meaning it's a short +7 handicap for the travelling side.
Saracens -4 and Harlequins +9 - 2/1