- Saracens to debut artificial surface at Allianz Park
- Newport Gwent Dragons hanging on in Pool 4
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History will be made on Sunday when Saracens and Cardiff Blues run out for their 3rd round LV= Cup tie at Allianz Park. The fixture will be the first ever game of professional rugby union played on an artificial surface in England, and given the recent cold snap and a string of postponements Saracens could not have timed their decision to play there any better.
A winning start at the north London venue – their seventh home ground this season – would more than likely maintain Saracens’ place at the top of Pool 3. All four sides in Pool 3 have each won and lost a game in the first two rounds of action. Saracens lead the way from London Irish by virtue of their superior points difference, with both sides a point ahead of Wasps and two in front of Scarlets.
Irish are at home to Worcester Warriors, who top an even more competitive Pool 2 on points difference. Richard Hill’s men are one of three sides tied on five points – Cardiff Blues and Sale Sharks being the others – while Leicester’s tally of four points means the defending champions are still very much in the running to retain their title.
Sale bid for two wins from two in LV= Cup
Leicester get the chance to avenge their 14-12 defeat away to Wasps in the Premiership at the back end of November when they entertain the Londoners at Welford Road. Wasps’ last win in all competitions at Welford Road was on 26 September, 2008. Meanwhile, Sale are at home to Scarlets as they bid to make it two LV= Cup wins from two at the Salford City Stadium after a 25-23 win over Saracens in the first tie to be played there.
Exeter and Harlequins are joint leaders of Pool 1 with nine points apiece following victories in their first two games. Harlequins seemingly face the easier of the two assignments in Round 3 as they are at home to pointless London Welsh, whose main focus is on Premiership survival, while the Chiefs have to travel to bogey side Bath. Since being promoted to the Premiership the Chiefs have never managed to beat their West Country rivals, although they did come close to ending that run over the festive period when they drew 12-all at Sandy Park.
A point for either of Harlequins and Exeter or victory for third-placed Gloucester away to Northampton would officially signal the end of Newport Gwent Dragons’ campaign regardless of how they fare in the only Welsh derby of the weekend against Ospreys. The Dragons have yet to pick up a point in this season’s competition.
Saints top Pool 4 by one point from Bath and Ospreys with London Welsh, like the Dragons, propping up the table without a single to their name. For Saints Saturday’s game will be the first of two matches at home to the Cherry & Whites in the space of a fortnight as they meet them in the league on February 9. Saints won 24-19 when the sides met at Kingsholm on the opening weekend of the Premiership season. Gloucester’s last win at Franklin’s Gardens was on February 26, 2011.