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Aviva Premiership
All eyes on East Midlands derby
Tom Hamilton
October 4, 2013
The East Midlands derby - it should be feisty © Getty Images
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Four rounds down in the Aviva Premiership and it is hard to see who has the quality to knock Saracens off their perch at the top of the table. But even if they claim another triumph on Saturday against Wasps, they may not be able to wrestle the headlines from the East Midlands derby which should be yet another fiery affair. Elsewhere, winless Worcester host fellow relegation favourites Newcastle at Sixways and Harlequins travel to London Irish. On Sunday, Gloucester welcome Exeter Chiefs to Kingsholm.

In form

Saracens have dropped just one point after four games and following their 22-12 win over Harlequins last weekend, look almost unbeatable. They have ridiculous strength in depth and despite having their first choice centres Brad Barritt and Joel Tomkins out injured, the likes of Chris Wyles and Duncan Taylor have stepped in seamlessly.

Player wise, Northampton's Sam Dickinson is making noises as a potential Test No.8 while George Ford put in an assured performance against London Irish last weekend. Saracens' Jacques Burger has also been the outstanding openside in the Premiership this season while Leicester's Vereniki Goneva is rampaging through opposition defences .

Team News

  • Owen Farrell drops to the bench for Saracens with Alex Goode starting at fly-half. Will Fraser makes his first start of the campaign after recovering from injury.
  • Tom Wood and Samu Manoa return for Northampton ahead of East Midlands derby against Leicester.
  • Dave Lewis earns first start for Exeter Chiefs.
  • Joe Carlisle starts ahead of Andy Goode for Wasps' trip to Saracens.
  • Danny Care drops to the bench for Harlequins with Karl Dickson starting for their game against London Irish.
  • Leicester change one with Graham Kitchener starting alongside Louis Deacon.
  • The Number Crunch - the weekend in stats

Out of form

Penny for Dean Ryan's thoughts. Worcester Warriors are yet to win this season in the Premiership and host Newcastle on Saturday. The Falcons were mentioned in the same breath as Worcester as potential relegation fodder and you feel the Warriors just have to win this weekend. They have made just one change for the match with Jeremy Becasseau starting and Ryan hopes his team will grow closer as they become more familiar with his methods.

"We're four games together and intensity is a recurring word for us but that's just part of the challenge of growing this group," Ryan said. "There isn't one answer to that. It's not one thing we forgot to say in the changing room. It's about growing in scenarios together."

Key area to watch

Discipline. That will be the watchword at Welford Road with Leicester hosting their East Midlands rivals Northampton. The 2012-13 Premiership final ended with Dylan Hartley and Richard Cockerill both handed suspensions for dissent. And off-field talking points are nothing new to this match-up. Who can forget Manu Tuilagi punching Chris Ashton and Tom Wood and Alesana Tuilagi both seeing red for their touchline brawl back in 2011? It should be another memorable match with the referee inevitably thrown into the headlines in one way or another.

Trivia

  • Saracens have not lost at home in the regular season since March 2012.
  • Bath have only won one game away from home since the first game of the 2012-13 season - they will hope that changes against Sale this weekend.
  • Worcester have lost nine on the bounce - the worst run in their professional history.

 
He'll be there somewhere; his little cheeky face will be peeking out! Northampton Saints boss Jim Mallinder on Leicester's banned coach Richard Cockerill
 

Stats

  • Northampton Saints' Stephen Myler and Lee Dickson become Aviva Premiership's record holders for the most starts as a half-back partnership.
  • The Tigers have won their last eight games against Northampton - their best return since the 1980s.
  • There has been just one red card issued this season - to Gloucester's Nick Wood.

Betting

Worcester are the favourites to finish at the foot of the table at 6/4 with bet365 and if you fancy Saracens to continue their winning run and go all the way in the Premiership and end up lifting the title, then you can get odds of 7/4.

Predictions

Bath to beat Sale by four.
Harlequins to win at Madejski Stadium by seven.
Saracens to beat Wasps by 20.
Worcester Warriors to draw with Newcastle.
Leicester Tigers to overcome Northampton by five.
Gloucester to beat Exeter by eight.

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd
Tom Hamilton is the Assistant Editor of ESPNscrum.
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