Martin Crowson's Five Things: Clark's ban ends in time for derby
Martin Crowson looks back at five key points from the weekend's rugby action.
1In a stroke of almost unbelievable irony, the 32-week ban handed out to Northampton Saints flanker Calum Clark for breaking Leicester Tigers hooker Rob Hawkins' arm in the LV Cup final last March runs out on Thursday. That is just 48 hours before the Saints play . . . yes, you guessed it, Leicester Tigers on Saturday. If you were Saints coach Jim Mallinder, would you play him, or not? It is a decision that could be made for him if England decide to hang on to Elite Player Squad back-rowers Tom Wood and Phil Dowson for the Fiji Test.
2Irrespective of whether or not Welford Road gets a reprieve by the organisers of the Rugby World Cup 2015, I would hope that Gloucester's Kingsholm ground is given the green light to stage a game when the final decision is made on host venues. Saturday's fixture with Leicester Tigers was bristling with atmosphere from a passionate and respectful crowd in a ground with impressive facilities. Just like Leicester . . . and Northampton . . . and Exeter . . . and Bath . . .
3The only emotions from Leicester's players and staff in the wake of Saturday's 27-21 defeat were ones of disappointment and frustration. But, to quote a cliche, there were plenty of positives to come out of the game for Richard Cockerill's side. Tigers' pack was back to their brutal best and reached a peak not seen all season. Against a Gloucester front eight that had some serious weight, they bullied and bossed them off the park. Tigers' scrum was dominant and their driving mauls looked unstoppable for much of the game. Good signs.
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4There is usually a stream of gallows-type humour wafting around Oval Park about Leicester's loss often leading to England's gain. Well, with a wonderful sense of timing, Dan Cole, Geoff Parling, Toby Flood, Manu Tuilagi and Thomas Waldrom are all playing some of the best rugby of their careers at the moment, just as they depart for the forthcoming autumn internationals. Typical.
5And so Saracens have gone joint top of the Aviva Premiership with Harlequins, having scored seven tries in seven games after their 16-6 win against Saints. Who says you need to play "expansive rugby" to be successful in northern hemisphere league rugby?