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Joseph warns of Leicester threat

Jonathan Joseph readily accepts that Bath face a major test when they tackle Aviva Premiership play-off rivals Leicester on Sunday.

Bath head to Welford Road - a ground where they have won only once from their last 17 visits - targeting an immediate response following last weekend's comprehensive defeat against Northampton.

But they will have their work cut out, given that Tigers have suffered a solitary loss in the last 13 starts on home soil.

"We just need to make sure that we always stick to our plan," England centre Joseph said.

"Perhaps against Northampton they knocked us out of our stride a bit and we didn't play the way that we have been after that.

"These are the big games that are going to test you. Welford Road is always a really difficult place to go, they have a great record there and you are always in for a tough day.

"We can be pleased with how we are going this season, though, and it is another chance for us to test ourselves."

Leicester will go into the game after seeing their rugby director Richard Cockerill avoid possible disciplinary action.

Cockerill spoke out immediately after last Saturday's victory over Sale Sharks at Welford Road when asked to comment on a series of reset scrums, claiming Sale had "come to cheat and cheat and cheat".

But the Rugby Football Union has confirmed there will be no action taken against the former England hooker, and Leicester issued a statement on Friday clarifying the context of Cockerill's remarks.

On the pitch, captain Toby Flood returns for the Tigers this weekend after missing two games because of injury.

Flood lines up at inside centre instead of his usual fly-half position, replacing Dan Bowden, who suffered a fractured cheekbone and eye-socket during the Sale game, and there are also starts for wing Miles Benjamin and number eight Jordan Crane.

Bath fly-half George Ford, meanwhile, returns to Welford Road to face his former club but another Leicester old boy - wing Horacio Agulla - is on the Bath bench.

In Sunday's other Premiership game, Wasps host Exeter, when a win for either side would see them stay close to the play-off zone.

Wasps arrive in the Adams Park clash after beating Newcastle last time out but Exeter were well-beaten by Harlequins seven days ago.

"We need to keep in contention with the top six, and with Exeter just above us in the table this game gives us a chance to do that," Wasps rugby director David Young said.

"Exeter are a very good, well-organised team with a very good set-piece and they will play from all areas of the field, testing our defence as well as our resolve."

Young makes three changes from the side that won at Newcastle, with scrum-half Joe Simpson replacing Charlie Davies and back-row pair Rory Pitman and Guy Thompson taking over from injured duo Sam Jones and James Haskell.

Fly-half Henry Slade will make his first Premiership start for Exeter. Hooker Chris Whitehead and lock James Hanks also feature, while former Gloucester number nine Dave Lewis will be Slade's half-back partner.

"We are in the top half of the league, which is where we want to be, but now we have a very important game against Wasps which will probably play a large part in what we are going to be fighting for at the end of the season," Exeter head coach Rob Baxter said.


From Belfast Telegraph