With just five games to go there is everything to play for, not only at the top of the table but at the bottom as well. Down in the depths London Irish, London Welsh and Sale are engaged in a three-way struggle to avoid relegation, Welsh having been hampered by a points deduction for fielding an ineligible player. All three have interesting games this weekend, so this is where we begin.
Remember that rugby markets tend to move late and fast, so the best betting odds are often to be had on the day of the game itself.
Sale Sharks v Bath
Sale's season has been a comedy of errors and even with their internationals now back it is hard to see their on-field fortunes changing until their off-field affairs are sorted out. The running of the team is now back in the hands of Steve Diamond, a man every bit as hard as his surname suggests. Unfortunately, in the eyes of some players he is partly to blame for the problems the club has had this season and getting the best out of the limited resources he has will be a huge challenge for him.
Bath, on the other hand, were bouyed by three key players – among them England prop David Wilson – signing long-term contract extensions this week and will, as always, be up for what should be a bonus point victory in the North-East. They should be a solid win bet at 4/5 with Betfair
London Irish v Worcester
Worcester have turned themselves into a solid, mid-table team over the past few seasons and Irish thought that they had done exactly the same, so it is a surprise that they find themselves on the fringes of the relegation dog-fight. The fact is, though, that they are and with only a five point gap between themselves and Sale – equivalent to a bonus point win – means that they need to at the very least win their home games. Worcester are one place but eight points above them. Moreover, they are the joint highest scorers of bonus points in the competition this year. Expect this to be a home win for the Irish, but by fewer than 7 points.
Gloucester v London Welsh
That points deduction leaves the Welsh two points adrift at the foot of the table in this, their first season in the top division. Whilst it is hard to feel any sympathy for a team when one of their management lied on an official document to register a player, the fact is that – justified or not – they are smarting about the decision and will come out playing hard on Saturday. Gloucester may be a step too far, though. They're the second highest points scorers in the league, whilst Welsh have the third worst defence. This one looks like a home win all the way, but if you think Welsh can upset the formbook then at 3/1 with Betfair they are the value bet of the weekend, and a selection that you must add to your sports picks.
Saracens v HarlequinsThe highlight of the weekend is Sunday's game between the top two sides. Saracens currently top the table by four points from their visitors and have lost only three times in the league this season. Harlequins, meanwhile, come into the game having won the LV Cup final last weekend and as the highest points scorers of the season. This threatens to be a very close contest and I tip the visitors to just shade it, but by fewer than five points.