When you look at the Premiership table going into this weekend’s league games, it’s clear that Leicester Tigers and Saracens, who clash on Saturday, are favourites to reach the semi-finals, but then who?
Champions Harlequins, Exeter Chiefs, London Irish, Gloucester and Sale Sharks all have a chance of making the play-offs after the conclusion of the league campaign on Saturday June 4th.
So, until then, every league game matters, although there’s no relegation at the end of this season.
Gloucester face Northampton Saints on Saturday, London Irish take on Worcester and Exeter are at Sandy Park against Sale on Sunday.
As this is being written, a look at the table shows how close the six teams are below Leicester Tigers at the top, Saracens have 54, Quins 53, Exeter 50, London Irish 48, Gloucester 47 and Sale Sharks 46.
Surely, Gloucester playing at Kingsholm must be tipped to beat Northampton Saints who have lost their last three Premiership games against Exeter, Sale and Tigers.
The Saints then are in a bit of trouble , and while Gloucester were beaten by Leicester 35-23 last weekend and were punished for their mistakes, the Cherry and Whites showed the right kind of attitude.
Centre Mark Atkinson may or may not be available because of the Six Nations, but with winger Ollie Thorley and skipper and flanker Lewis Ludlow in decent form, you’d expect Gloucester to earn their 10th league win.
As regards London Irish, also playing on Saturday, you’d make them favourites with home advantage at the Brentford Community Stadium.
Their opponents, Worcester Warriors, second from bottom and with the worst defence in the league and they’ve conceded 83 tries but showed some promise as they lost 29-21 to champions Harlequins.
In number eight Sione Vailanu from Tonga, Worcester possess one of the most powerful forwards in the league, and London Irish, unbeaten in their last three games, need to mark him closely.
Head coach, Les Kiss, needs his team to earn a maximum of five points against one of the weakest teams in the competition instead of the three they picked up in the previous game at Sale Sharks after drawing 27 all.
Interestingly, in a sport in which there are few draws, that was the fourth time this season in the Premiership that London Irish have left the pitch with honours even.
Coach Steve Diamond, now in charge at Worcester, is without question creating a new atmosphere at Sixways, so you can expect his squad to be competitive at Brentford.
Indeed, Diamond will no doubt be reminding his players that back in September in their first game of the new Premiership season, Worcester beat London Irish by 36-24 at Sixways. Since then, the Warriors have declined while Irish are one of five teams fighting furiously for a place in the top four.