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London Irish and Saracens stake claim for slice of rugby union's American pie

Shane Geraghty has described London Irish's clash against Saracens in New Jersey on Saturday and its build-up as "massive" for the club and Aviva Premiership rugby.

The 25,000-seater Red Bull Arena - home of MLS side New York Red Bulls - will host the Premiership's first overseas fixture.

And it comes with Irish currently propping up the Premiership table, eight points behind 11th-placed Newcastle, while Saracens - despite losing at home to Northampton last weekend - remain top by three points from closest challengers Exeter.

"New Jersey is a pretty amazing place, and of course, we are only a stone's throw away from Manhattan, but at the same time we are not forgetting what we are here to do, and that is to win at the weekend," Irish back Geraghty said.

"Obviously this is a massive week for the club and a massive week for Aviva Premiership Rugby, hosting a game outside of the UK for the first time.

"The welcome has been fantastic. To be training down at the New York Jets facility has been pretty amazing. too. It's an incredible set-up down there, and we are very lucky they have let us share in that.

"Everyone has been wishing us luck, asking us about rugby - both XVs and sevens - and telling us about how the game is growing in America.

"The public seem really knowledgeable about the game, actually, which is great to see, and hopefully we can give them a great game to watch this weekend."

Back on English shores, Exeter can take advantage of any Saracens slip-up against Irish by seeing off Sandy Park visitors Newcastle.

And the Chiefs have received a major boost with their England international centre Henry Slade returning to action this weekend just three months after he suffered a broken leg and damaged ankle ligaments during Exeter's Premiership clash against Wasps.

Wasps, meanwhile, host Leicester at their new Ricoh Arena home in Coventry on Saturday, with just two points separating them during a congested race for play-off positions behind Saracens and Exeter.

"Whenever and wherever you play Leicester, you know you will always be in for a tough game," Wasps rugby director Dai Young said.

"This match has huge relevance when it comes to the Premiership table, but to be honest Wasps versus Tigers games always have huge significance anyway.

"These two clubs go back a long way, and now of course there's an extra bit of spice with it being a new midlands derby, so that adds to this fixture as well.

"The next two home games are massive - Leicester, followed by Sale Sharks, on back-to-back weekends at the Ricoh Arena.

"Seven points separate the three teams, with Sale having a game in hand, so these next two weeks will have a big bearing on overall standings this season."

In Saturday's other Premiership games, Sale travel to Northampton, with Gloucester tackling Worcester at Sixways.


From Belfast Telegraph