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Back boosted by returning duo

Leeds Carnegie hope to feed off the success of their England forwards Steve Thompson and Hendre Fourie when they continue a prolonged fight against relegation on Sunday.

Both players went on as late substitutes during unbeaten England's RBS 6 Nations victory over title rivals France at Twickenham last Saturday. Less than 24 hours later, they watched from the Headingley touchline as Leeds suffered a morale-sapping Aviva Premiership defeat against Newcastle, and Leeds head coach Neil Back has now recalled them to face visitors London Irish.

England World Cup winner Back said: "It was great to see both guys at Headingley Carnegie last Sunday supporting their team-mates, despite the euphoria of beating France the previous day at Twickenham. They have come back in with an upbeat attitude after their experiences with the national team, and that has certainly given us a lift in training."

Leeds, though, have got it all to do in their bid to retain top-flight status after the Newcastle defeat left them seven points adrift at the bottom.

A win for Irish - they triumphed 56-7 on their last Headingley mission in 2009 - would keep them among the title play-off contenders, possibly taking them above fifth-placed Northampton.

Saints face a tricky encounter against Sandy Park hosts Exeter on Sunday, and they head to Devon on the back of five successive Premiership defeats.But Exeter assistant coach and former Northampton fly-half Ali Hepher is backing Saints to reassert themselves as the play-off race gathers pace.

He said: "They've had a few defeats, but they will bounce through that. They've still got quality players throughout the side.

"They will push on towards the end of the season, we've just got to make sure they don't start that push at the weekend. They are a hell of a club, they've been established for a while now and they are challenging for major honours this year.

"Northampton are a good template to follow. We're obviously a couple of years behind them, but hopefully it's a path we can follow."

In Sunday's other Premiership game, Wasps will aim to revive their flagging play-off hopes by accounting for Adams Park visitors Sale Sharks.


From Belfast Telegraph