There are three huge games in the Aviva Premiership this week and each one is tough to call.
HARLEQUINS (1st) v LEICESTER (2nd) - SATURDAY
It shows you how big the other two match-ups are when the clash of the Aviva Premiership’s top two teams is the least attractive of the three.
I have to give league-leader Quins a lot of credit. All season, I have been thinking they were just a flash in the pan. A side that made the most of other teams’ best players being away at the World Cup.
But their win over Saracens the other week shows they are a force to be reckoned with. They showed real guts against Sarries and dug deep for the win and it allowed them to build a big cushion at the top of the table.
If they win this, they will be guaranteed a home semi-final, while Leicester will go a long way to securing the same thing if they can keep their amazing recent run going of five consecutive bonus-point wins.
I am leaning towards Leicester by four points because of their brutal forward pack but, if Quins can nick it, they should be the favourites to win the whole thing.
(Best odds* for Leicester win on Betfair 1.8)
EXETER (4th) v NORTHAMPTON (5th) - SUNDAY
There is some serious importance riding on this clash at a sold-out Sandy Park.
If the home side can win it, they will be assured of a place in the semi-finals and what an achievement that would be for a side in their second season in the Premiership.
It’s Cinderella stuff.
Quins have surprised a few people this year but not to the extent that Exeter have. I have a lot of respect for what their squad has done.
Saints will arrive after a thumping by Leicester last week and if the possibility of being eliminated from the play-offs doesn’t focus their mind, nothing will. Saints really missed their four England pack members last week and they will miss them again.
But they have been doing plenty of soul-searching this week. They have class in plenty of departments and, despite Exeter being at home, I think the Saints will win by six points.
(Best Northampton win odds* available on Paddypower and 888Sport)
GLOUCESTER (7th) v SALE (6th) - SATURDAY
This game has crept out of nowhere to become one of the biggest games of the season.
Not only is the last Heineken Cup spot up from grabs for finishing sixth in the table but the background to the game involving Bryan Redpath has cranked the tension up off the scale!
Gloucester’s head coach finally resigned last week after days of speculation linking him to the same job at Sale.
It was the culmination of a bad run of results by the Cherry & Whites and, although Sale haven’t named Redpath as their man, it looks like they will pretty soon if all of the rumours are to be believed.
You would expect Gloucester to rally round the interim coach and go out and perform but it will be interesting to see how they go because there are several senior guys leaving at the end of this season and they have looked lost in recent weeks.
Sale have been up and down, are away from home and, whatever the stakes, with the Shed behind them, I expect Gloucester to rally themselves to win this one.
(Best odds* Gloucester win available on Bet365)
SHARKS v CHIEFS – Super 15 – Saturday
Down Under, this is the game of the round. The Chiefs have gone about their business quietly this year when usually they flatter to deceive. Heading into this game, they are the best-ranked team in the whole of the competition.
The Sharks are always hard to beat at home and need a win here to bring the Chiefs down a peg or two. Because they need that win more than the Chiefs, I’m going to call the Sharks by eight points.
*Best odds available at or about 15:00 Friday 20th April. - Best accumulator odds on all 3 Aviva Premiership results from the Tryg 4.63 on BlueSq and 888Sport.