Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 20 August 2014

Cole ready to renew rivalry

Leicester's Dan Cole, pictured, is ready to do battle with local rivals Northampton in this weekend's Aviva Premiership clash

England prop Dan Cole believes Saturday's Aviva Premiership showdown between fierce rivals Leicester and Northampton "should be one to remember".

The Welford Road clash will be a first meeting since the clubs faced each other in last season's Premiership final at Twickenham.

Leicester won 37-17, but the game is remembered for Saints skipper Dylan Hartley's first-half red card after he verbally abused match referee Wayne Barnes.

England hooker Hartley subsequently received an 11-week ban and lost his place in the British and Irish Lions' squad for the tour of Australia.

The latest encounter comes with both clubs having made strong league starts, suffering just two defeats between them from eight games.

"We always look forward to playing against Saints. These games are the reasons why you play rugby, really," Tigers forward Cole said.

"Going on last season's performances, we are the best two teams in the country and we are local rivals, so it should be one to remember.

"They have a good forward pack and like to use it, and so do we, so I am expecting a busy game. I can't wait to get going, really."

Harlequins, currently outside the Premiership's top four following home losses to Northampton and Saracens, visit London Irish on Saturday, when they should claim another away scalp.

"Everyone is making a lot of the fact that we have lost half our games so far, but we have only played four and it is a long old season," Quins back-row forward Tom Guest said.

"Any team hates to lose, but the reality is that every team will drop points at some point. We just happen to have done it at the beginning of the season."

Bottom club Worcester, having collected just one point from four starts, host Newcastle on Saturday, when Saracens meet Wasps at Allianz Park.

Bath centres Jonathan Joseph and Kyle Eastmond, meanwhile, have been backed as a potential England midfield partnership for next month's autumn Tests.

England head coach Stuart Lancaster faces a selection rethink due to injuries that will sideline centres Brad Barritt and Manu Tuilagi from Twickenham appointments with Australia, Argentina and New Zealand.

Former St Helens rugby league star Eastmond is already in the England elite player squad, and while Joseph would need to be promoted from the current England Saxons group, they could conceivably provide Lancaster with food for thought.

They will team up in Friday night's clash against Sale Sharks at the AJ Bell Stadium, when victory for Bath would see them climb into second place behind league pace-setters Saracens.

Joseph scored a try in last weekend's comfortable victory over his former club London Irish, and Bath flanker Guy Mercer said: "With the form that those guys are in and the talent they have got, they are really sticking their hands up at the moment.

"I don't think they would just fill gaps - they would add something different as well."

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