Quins without Robshaw for Bath clash
March 22, 2012
Charlie Hodgson starts at fly-half for Saracens at Sale © PA Photos
England skipper Chris Robshaw is given a well-deserved weekend off as Premiership leaders Harlequins entertain Bath on Saturday.
Robshaw is rested following his Six Nations exertions, but fullback Mike Brown returns from the Test arena, with Nick Evans and Danny Care forging Quins' half-back combination. Bath show ten changes to their match-day squad from the one knocked out of LV= Cup contention by Leicester two weeks ago. Fullback Nick Abendanon, wing Olly Woodburn and front-row trio Nathan Catt, Pieter Dixon and David Wilson are among those who feature.
England playmaker Charlie Hodgson faces former club Sale Sharks as Saracens seek to maintain their place in the Premiership top two at Edgeley Park on Friday night.
Hodgson was on the bench for England at Twickenham last weekend and will start at No.10 for Sarries with club and country colleague Owen Farrell given the weekend off after starting in the victory over Ireland. Despite starting against Ireland, Brad Barritt returns to Sarries' midfield while England prop Matt Stevens also starts. Like Farrell, David Strettle and Mouritz Botha put their feet up.
"It's not difficult to come straight back into Premiership action. Obviously I'm as committed for Sarries as I am for England," said Barritt. "Sarries has been my home for four years and it's a huge honour to play for them.
"It will be a really tough match against Sale, they are a great side, especially at home. We have a big challenge ahead of us, reintegrating players into the team."
Sale, who announced the signing of Danny Cipriani during the week, show three changes from the side comfortably beaten by Exeter last time out, as centre Luther Burrell, prop Tony Buckley and flanker Mark Easter are all handed start.
Former Ireland international Peter Stringer will make his debut for Newcastle Falcons against Worcester Warriors at Sixways. Elsewhere, hooker Matt Thompson replaces Rob Vickers, who is serving a one-week suspension, while Scotland prop Euan Murray returns from Six Nations duty. Worcester No.8 Kai Horstmann make his first Premiership start since September, while fit-again wing Marcel Garvey also returns for Warriors' appointment with the bottom club.
Exeter travel to Kingsholm on Saturday knowing that victory over sixth-placed Gloucester would keep them firmly in title play-off contention with only four more games and six weeks of the regular domestic season left. Wings Charlie Sharples and James Simpson-Daniel both start for Gloucester, along with centre Eliota Fuimaono-Sapolu, while Dan Murphy replaces injured prop Nick Wood and Scotland Test forwards Scott Lawson and Jim Hamilton also return. Exeter boss Rob Baxter has predictably named an unchanged team from the one that brushed Sale aside last time out and kept the Chiefs firmly in play-off contention.
Flanker Calum Clark will miss Northampton's clash with London Wasps at Adams Park after the Saints suspended for his role in the injury to Leicester hooker Rob Hawkins in the LV=Cup final last weekend. England and Saints hooker Dylan Hartley misses the match ahead of his disciplinary hearing for allegedly biting the finger of an opponent. However, England quartet Ben Foden, Chris Ashton, Lee Dickson and Phil Dowson return for Saints, with scrum-half Dickson skippering the side.
Wing Richard Haughton has recovered from injury to line up in a Wasps side seeking its first win at Franklin's Gardens for more than six years. Fullback Hugo Southwell continues as captain of a team that includes young prospects Jack Wallace, Elliot Daly and Joe Launchbury
IN ESPN's second live match of the weekend sees Leicester Tigers face London Irish. Leicester's push for the play-offs is boosted by several players returning to club duty following this season's Six Nations Championship. Centre Manu Tuilagi, scrum-half Ben Youngs, prop Dan Cole and lock Geoff Parling start, with Martin Castrogiovanni and Tom Croft among the replacements.
England prop Alex Corbisiero features in a much-changed London Irish side as the Exiles look to bounce back from defeat against Wasps earlier this month. Tom Homer, Marland Yarde and Sailosi Tagicakibau form the back-three, with Dan Bowden switching to fly-half and Steve Shingler lining up at inside centre.
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
"Gentlemen, if you want to see the World Cup going south yet again, you are going the right way about it," John Taylor looks at the state of European rugby
The Heineken Cup proved once again just why it is the best domestic rugby competition in the world at the weekend and Monday Maul picks out some of the key talking points
The latest Week in Pictures brings you a selection of the best snaps from around the rugby world with scantily clad ladies, O'Driscoll and snow all featuring
"If I miss the first kick of the match, it shouldn't have any impact on the second. They are different entities." Tom Hamilton talks to Northampton Saints' Stephen Myler