Gallagher Premiership: What to look out for this weekend
By Michael Cantillon
Last Updated: 28/11/19 6:18pm
Attention turns back to the Premiership this weekend after two rounds in Europe. Here's what to keep an eye out for across the country...
Saracens begin their big fightback...
Friday night's Premiership game is a biggie this week, as defending champions Saracens go in search of points at Bath (7.45pm kick-off) to begin their fightback from the bottom of the table on -22 points.
Mark McCall has recalled all his big guns for the clash, with Mako Vunipola, Jamie George, George Kruis, Maro Itoje, Billy Vunipola, Owen Farrell, Brad Barritt and Elliot Daly all starting.
Vincent Koch, Ben Spencer, Nick Tompkins and Nick Isiekwe will also provide considerable firepower off the bench.
Scrum-half Richard Wigglesworth will create a bit of history on the night, as he makes his 29th Premiership appearance against Bath - a record for most appearances by a player against a single opponent.
29 - @rwiggy9 will play @bathrugby this weekend for the 29th time in @premrugby, a new record for most appearances against a single opponent in the competition's history, a record he currently holds himself (28 v Bath and @gloucesterrugby). Familiar. pic.twitter.com/at83DKo5ig— OptaJonny (@OptaJonny) November 28, 2019
Each and every point from here on in is crucial for Sarries, with four or five losses the maximum they can really afford if they are to avoid the drop.
Bath have endured a mixed start to the campaign themselves with two wins and two defeats - plus two meek losses in Europe - but a marquee display over then-league leaders Northampton with 14 men last time out in the Premiership at the Rec was promising.
The atmosphere should be superb, and this is a game to keep across for sure.
East Midlands derby tops Saturday bill
This week's Saturday Premiership line-up sees three fixtures, with the pick of the bunch the East Midlands derby from Franklin's Gardens between Northampton and Leicester (3pm kick-off).
But for Sarries' points deduction, the Tigers would be bottom of the league table after only one win and three defeats from four games, giving them just four points.
What has happened to Leicester? Once a powerhouse of the English club game and a production line for the majority of the national side, the Tigers still possess the likes of internationals Ben Youngs, George Ford, Manu Tuilagi, Jonny May and Dan Cole, but are far from a force domestically or in Europe.
They struggled last season, and are doing so again this. Rivals Saints are flying, meanwhile, level on points at the top of the Premiership table and two wins from two in the Champions Cup. There is no better game to get their season going than a derby though.
Elsewhere on Saturday, Exeter host Wasps (3pm kick-off) off the back of two highly-impressive Champions Cup victories, looking to force their way back towards the top of the division.
Worcester also face Sale (3pm kick off), with home wins likely to be the Warriors' main route of avoiding relegation this campaign, making each one vital, while Sale are in a great place, sat third in the table and within touching distance of the summit.
League leaders in Sunday's double-header
Sunday sees two more Premiership offerings, including the current table-toppers, as Bristol host London Irish (3pm kick-off).
Both Bristol and Irish have been surprise packages with the starts they have made to the season. They possess some wonderful quality in their back divisions, with Charles Piutau vs Waisake Naholo particularly appealing.
In the week it was announced Bristol have secured the signing of Fiji's Semi Radradra - one of the world's best players - on a three-year contract from next season, the Bears will be looking to put on a show at Ashton Gate.
Finally, Quins host Gloucester at the Stoop on Sunday (also 3pm kick-off) as the home side look to propel themselves away from the bottom.