Wasps can secure Premiership semi-final spot, Saracens in crunch clash with Bath, rivals Northampton and Leicester meet

Jack de Menezes
Owen Farrell returns for Saracens against Bath on Sunday: Getty

Harlequins vs Newcastle Falcons, Saturday 15:00

The Harlequins director of rugby John Kingston is able to ring the changes for the visit of Newcastle as he recalls 13 players who are available again after the Six Nations, with the England contingent of Joe Marler, Danny Care and Mike Brown all named in the starting line-up.

However, it is the return of fit-again flanker Chris Robshaw that will hand Quins their biggest boost, with the former England captain recovering from shoulder surgery two weeks ahead of schedule to not only bolster the squad for the final three Premiership games of the season but also keep alive his hopes of featuring on the British and Irish Lions tour. His England teammates, Kyle Sinckler and Jack Clifford, are named on the bench.

The Falcons meanwhile make three changes, all in the pack, in the hope of ending their 17-year wait for a victory at the Twickenham Stoop, but are buoyed by the fact they beat them in the return fixture at Kingston Park earlier this season. Mark Wilson shifts forwards in the pack to replace the benched Evan Olmstead, meaning Callum Chick can come into the back-row at blindside flanker. The only other change sees former Scotland international Scott Lawson start at hooker.

Robshaw returns two weeks ahead of schedule after shoulder surgery (Getty)

Northampton Saints vs Leicester Tigers, Saturday 15:00

The East Midlands derby sees a plethora of Six Nations talent return to Premiership duty at Franklin’s Gardens, with England captain Dylan Hartley making his first start for Northampton in more than three months after serving a six-week ban before departing on international duty.

Hartley joins England teammates Courtney Lawes and captain Tom Wood in the pack along with the France No 8 Louis Picamoles, while Wales wing George North also returns. The Saints also boast a strong bench with England internationals Teimana Harrison, Lee Dickson and Luther Burrell all among the replacements, alongside Ken Pisi.

Harltey will make his first Northampton appearance in more than three months (Getty)

Leicester will hope to leapfrog Bath and move back into the top four in what will be Aaron Mauger’s final match as head coach before he is replaced by the returning Matt O’Connor. England internationals Dan Cole and Ben Youngs are thrown straight back into the starting XV, with the only players retaining their place from the side that won the Anglo-Welsh Cup final last weekend being Mathew Tait, Freddie Burns, Ellis Genge and Graham Kitchener.

Exeter Chiefs vs Sale Sharks, Saturday 15:00

Unlike most of the Premiership contingent, Exeter have not rung the changes as Jack Nowell is the only Six Nations player to return to the starting line-up for the visit of Sale to Sandy Park, with Wales prop Tom Francis having to make do with a place among the replacements.

Exeter make two changes in total, with Ben Moon replacing Carl Rimmer at loosehead prop, while both Sam and Joe Simmonds are included on the bench after the brothers impressed in last weekend’s Anglo-Welsh Cup final defeat.

Nowell is one of just two changes for Exeter (Getty)

Sale have England Under-20 flanker Tom Curry available again after last weekend’s Grand Slam success in Dublin, with director of rugby Steve Diamond – who remains banned from the touchline – making three changes as AJ MacGinty starts at fly-half, Sam James moving to outside centre and former Exeter wing Byron McGuigan replacing Josh Charnley out wide.

Wasps vs Worcester Warriors, Sunday 14:30

Wasps have decided to rest a number of their England players following their Six Nations exploits, though James Haskell is not one of them as the flanker makes an immediate return from international duty at blindside flanker. Captain Joe Launchbury is rested along with No 8 Nathan Hughes and back Elliot Daly, as is Tommy Taylor after he was brought into the England camp for the final few weeks of the championship.

Matt Mullan also returns to the replacements, with the versatile hooker Ashley Johnson captaining the side in Launchbury’s absence. Director of rugby Dai Young continues to stick with Australia international Kurtley Beale at full-back, meaning that Springbok Willie le Roux is named on the wing once again along with Christian Wade. Scrum-half Dan Robson have reason to celebrate regardless of the result as he clocks up his 100th Premiership appearance, while Wasps can mathematically confirm their play-off berth this weekend with a bonus point victory, should Leicester fail to gain more than a losing bonus point at Northampton.

Haskell will make just his third appearance for Wasps this season (Getty)

Worcester are unchanged from the crucial victory over Bristol at the start of the month that has pulled them seven points clear of the relegation zone, with the only returning faces featuring among the replacements as Georgia international Jaba Bregvadze joins the fit-again Dean Hammond, with Phil Dowson also recalled as cover for the back-row.

Saracens vs Bath, Sunday 15:00

The final match of the weekend sees a heavily reinforced Saracens take on a dangerous-looking Bath side that sees a number of England teammates go up against one-another, not least the crucial axis of Owen Farrell and George Ford.

Farrell is named at fly-half for the defending champions, and is joined by Mako and Billy Vunipola, Jamie George and Maro Itoje in making immediate returns to the starting line-up. They’re not the only England internationals returning, as Alex Goode makes his comeback from an ankle injury that has kept him sidelined for more than two months, meaning that both Alex Lozowski and Duncan Taylor drop to the replacements.

Bath name England wing Anthony Watson at full-back as Semesa Rokoduguni continues on the wing with Matt Banahan. Ford starts at stand-off, directly opposite Farrell, with Jonathan Joseph in at outside centre, while Wales forwards Luke Charteris and Taulupe Faletau return to the starting line-up, having been used as replacements by Rob Howley during the Six Nations. Bath need to win if they want to keep alive their hopes of a home semi-final, while Sarries have drifted six points behind leaders Wasps, though remain a lone point off second-placed Exeter.

Itoje is one of five England players back for Saracens this weekend (Getty)

All teams will observe a one-minute silence before matches this weekend to remember the four victims of the terror attack in London this weekend, as well as the many more that were injured in Westminster on Wednesday.

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