Usual suspects gather at the summit of the Aviva Premiership

Yahoo! Contributor Network

The Six Nations may be over but the rugby keeps coming thick and fast. All eyes (in England at least) return to the Premiership this weekend, and there are some mouth-watering encounters to take your mind off 'that' defeat last weekend.

Five rounds are left, and the top of the table is starting to take shape. Harlequins' shock defeat at home to Exeter in round 17 meant they relinquished their stranglehold on the table for the first time in a while. The team who leapfrogged them are Saracens, to whose ground they travel this weekend.

Undoubtedly the fixture of the weekend, it is also a key moment in the title race - and perhaps more importantly the race for a home semi-final. Should Saracens win, and Harlequins fail to get a bonus point, they will be eight points clear of the Twickenham-based club. With only five games to be played that is a sizeable margin.

And then there are the Leicester Tigers to throw into the mix. Every season they plod along, always keeping in touch with the top few teams without ever blowing anyone away. This year they are doing the same, and are tucked away in third, one point behind Quins.

At the weekend they travel down to Devon to take on the Exeter Chiefs, who are high on confidence after that win at the Stoop. It is an intriguing match-up. The Tigers have stuffed their line-up with returning internationals and on paper it is a no-brainer. As everyone knows, however, rugby is not played on paper, and the confidence the Exeter players will carry into the game will be vital and could be a match-winning difference.

Should the Tigers win and Quins lose, the London club could find themselves out of the top two for the first time this season. It is no time to panic just yet, but there is such a premium on a home quarter-final that it is not something that will sit comfortably with the players or the fans.

Saracens seem to be the team best placed at the moment. Looking at the respective run-ins confirms this, too. Sarries have three home games, all of which they will expect to comfortably win. Harlequins, after travelling to the Fez-heads, also have to go to Kingsholm to battle play-off chasing Gloucester. It is one of the most difficult places to win in the league.

The Tigers face trips to rivals Bath and Northampton Saints, as well as welcoming the ambitious and exciting Wasps to Welford Road. Nothing easy about their remaining fixtures, either.

Of course, it is easy to say Saracens are in the driving seat. It is far more difficult to predict what will actually happen over the coming weeks. A win for Harlequins and the Tigers this weekend and things become incredibly tight again at the top. It is deliciously poised.

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