The latest round of Premiership action is previewed headlined by Leicester's home clash against champions Exeter at Welford Road...
"The Tigers have already lost to Bath at Welford Road and have their hands full against Exeter. The Chiefs have only lost one of their last ten Premiership away matches and appear to be hitting top gear."
Newcastle v London Irish
Live on BT Sport 2
It has been a very impressive start to the season for Newcastle with the side surprising several teams. None more so than last week when the Falcons pulled off a shock 33-32 win at Bath. Dean Richards' side have won three of their four matches which has put them fourth in the table. Whether Newcastle have the depth to remain up there is uncertain but any fears of a struggle have quickly been dispelled.
London Irish knew it was going to be a tough season following promotion and the evidence suggests a relegation battle with Worcester is on the cards. An excellent opening win over Harlequins at Twickenham gave them hope but London Irish have since lost three games conceding at least 36 points in each match. Reality has hit home and the side find themselves 11th with only the Warriors below them.
Newcastle are heavy favourites to win this clash and it is hard to disagree with this status. The Falcons will have taken a huge amount of confidence from their victory at the Rec and they come up against fragile opposition. London Irish have been at least 20 points behind at half-time in their last three defeats. With this in mind, Newcastle look worth supporting to cover a seven-point first-half handicap.
Leicester v Exeter
Live on BT Sport 2
Leicester have recovered well after losing their opening two games to secure back-to-back victories. The Tigers were well below par in their defeats against Bath and Northampton. But head coach Matt O'Connor got the response he was looking for after a home win over Gloucester which was followed by a gripping 31-28 victory at Harlequins. Leicester still look some way short of their best but are at least back on track as they bid to push up the Premiership.
Exeter slipped up on the opening day of the season, losing at Gloucester, but the champions have been hard to fault since then. The Chiefs brushed aside London Irish and Worcester before comfortably beating Wasps 31-17 in a repeat of last season's final. Rob Baxter's team are back on top of the Premiership and have been the most impressive team so far with four bonus points.
Leicester are marginal favourites for this game but in my eyes too much emphasis has been placed on home advantage. The Tigers have already lost to Bath at Welford Road and have their hands full against Exeter. The Chiefs have only lost one of their last ten Premiership away matches and appear to be hitting top gear. The visitors look generously priced in the match market and have the quality and confidence to come away with victory over Leicester.
Wasps v Bath
Live on BT Sport 1
Two clubs with a few problems to solve clash on Sunday with Wasps taking on Bath. The hosts have fallen to successive defeats including losing their long unbeaten run at home after being edged out by Harlequins. There is no doubt Dai Young has been hindered by a spate of injuries to the squad including Danny Cipriani. But he needs his team to regroup and find their form quickly.
Bath have also had issues of their own and director of rugby Todd Blackadder was particularly scathing after last weekend's home defeat to Newcastle. He berated their mistakes which cost them dearly as they suffered back-to-back defeats. Their frustration was only exacerbated after building a 32-19 lead before conceding 14 points without reply. Their lack of consistency will be a concern as Bath have shown their ability in wins over Saracens and Leicester during the opening month.
Both teams will be feeling the pressure at the Ricoh Arena and there is every chance it will be a nervous, error-strewn contest. But Wasps have an excellent home record and normal service should resume this weekend. With four successive wins over Bath, the hosts are expected to continue this run although it is likely to be a tense affair. The most likely outcome looks to be a home win by no more than 12 points.
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