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Davies primed for Saints test

Gloucester boss Nigel Davies expects to encounter a Northampton team brimful of confidence in Saturday's Aviva Premiership clash at Kingsholm.

While Gloucester currently prop up the league table with one point from two games, Saints are unbeaten and in second spot, fresh from beating Harlequins last time out.

Gloucester's miserable start to the season has seen them ship 66 points in being beaten on home soil by Sale Sharks and then against Saracens, while their England Saxons prop Nick Wood is serving an eight-week ban following his red card for stamping at Allianz Park last weekend.

"They are all tough games, and the players know that they will have to be right on top of their game to get anything out of this match," Davies said.

"(Northampton) will be coming here as strong favourites based on their past two performances and results. They will come here with a lot of confidence, and rightly so."

Wood was dismissed in the second minute against Saracens - Gloucester ultimately subsided to a 44-12 defeat - and Davies added: "It is very difficult to judge last weekend.

"In terms of spirit and commitment, there was plenty. But, in terms of the result, it was very difficult having played virtually the entire game with 14 men.

"But I was actually a little bit happier with the performance last Sunday than I was the week before. I've got no doubt that we are going to be a lot better than in the first game of the season."

Premiership champions Leicester welcome back England internationals Manu Tuilagi, Toby Flood and Ben Youngs for Saturday's Welford Road appointment with a Newcastle side now headed up by former Tigers chief Dean Richards.

"We've had some very good players unavailable already this season, and having some of them back in the fold is really good news for us," Leicester rugby director Richard Cockerill said.

"Newcastle had a very good win against Sale last week, and Dean Richards and John Wells will bring a well-drilled team that will want to make it very hard for us.

"In isolation it was disappointing to lose at Bath last weekend, but we took a point out of the game and every point will count at some stage in the season."

London Irish, buoyed by their victory at Worcester last time out, will aim to preserve an impressive unbeaten home record when they host Exeter on Saturday.

Irish are unbeaten at the Madejski Stadium in 2013, and Exiles fly-half Ian Humphreys said: "We want to keep it that way.

"I think we definitely have the potential to be in the top half of the league, and we just need to keep people fit and keep playing.

"I don't think it is any secret that our squad isn't as big as Leicester's or Saracens', but the boys we've brought in have proved themselves to be really good players and I don't think there is anyone you would be worried about picking."

Like Irish, Exeter claimed a first win of the campaign last Saturday, and head coach Rob Baxter has urged his players to build on a 30-26 success against Wasps.

"The important thing now is to back that up," Baxter said.

"If we think we can roll into the London Irish game, then we will put ourselves into a lot of problems. If we think we're on the move now and if we keep rolling the wins will keep coming, that definitely won't happen. We have to keep fighting and keep making things happen.

"The Premiership is what it is. Every game is important and has something on it.

"After you have won at home, like we've just done, the teams that can then go away from home and pick up points are the teams that tend to climb the league because that is what you have to do. You have to try and put runs of points together."

Sunday's Premiership action, meanwhile, sees league leaders Saracens host unbeaten rivals Bath, with the visitors including Gavin Henson for an appearance against one of his former clubs.


From Belfast Telegraph