Aviva Premiership
Clark in line for return to action
ESPN Staff
November 1, 2012
Northampton's Calum Clark, Northampton Saints v Sale Sharks, Aviva Premiership, Franklin's Gardens, Northampton, England, February 18, 2012
Calum Clark is expected tor return to playing after his 32-week ban ended © Getty Images

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Northampton Saints' director of rugby Jim Mallinder has added an extra edge to the East Midland's derby against Leciester Tigers on Saturday with the return of Calum Clark.

The flanker was suspended for 32 weeks for hyper-extending Leicester prop Rob Hawkins' arm in the LV=Cup last season. Even though he is likely to receive a white hot reception from the Welford Road faithful, Northampton director of rugby Jim Mallinder has no qualms about playing him alongside Phil Dowson, who was released from England's squad to face the Tigers.

"When he got suspended you look at the next game he's available and that's this coming Saturday so you can guarantee Calum will be in the squad this week," Mallinder told The Northampton Chronicle. "Leicester is a hostile environment, without a doubt. It's going to be at full capacity from what I've heard: 24,000 people there. Calum has been thinking about that throughout this period and I'm sure he'll be fine on Saturday."

Both sides are aiming to put losses in the previous round of matches behind them. Leicester lost away to Gloucester, while Saints were defeated at home for the first time this season, to Saracens. It was a result that knocked them off the top of the Premiership.

Tigers will hand a start to fly-half George Ford who will take over with Toby Flood away with England and Leicester will also have scrum-half Ben Youngs and centre Anthony Allen back. Youngs missed the loss at Gloucester after he pulled up with a tight hamstring before kick-off, but he and Allen have been released from England training for the match. Geordan Murphy and Julian Salvi also return to the starting XV along with Marcos Ayerza, George Chuter and Martin Castrogiovanni.

"George Ford will start at fly-half on Saturday," Tigers boss Richard Cockerill told The Leicester Mercury. "He understands where he is in his development curve. Last season, he started 11 games for the first team, he played in two semi-finals and two finals. Everyone is telling me he must play or he will leave. Well, George played lots of rugby last season and he will do the same this year. He is a great rugby player with a very mature head on his shoulders."

Bottom side Sale Sharks will continue their quest to win their first Premiership match of the season and claw back some ground on London Irish when the Exiles visit Salford City Stadium on Friday.

The north-west side have had another tumultuous week in which Brian Redpath was removed as director of rugby, but was then appointed head coach, while Steve Diamond took over from Redpath as director of rugby and former New Zealand coach John Mitchell brought in as a consultant. In the league they are bottom with two points, eight adrift of Irish and desperate to secure a league win before the international break.

Danny Cipriani continues at fly-half alongside Cillian Willis, whose form at scrum-half keeps Dwayne Peel on the bench. Flanker David Seymour captains the team and will link up with Andy Powell and Richie Vernon in the back-row and Diamond is confident that the team will soon turn round its performances.

"He (Mitchell) has come as a consultant just to give a helicopter view of how we do things and how we can smarten things up," Diamond said. "He has worked extensively with Bryan and myself, and it seems to be going well. Our preparations seem to be getting better, even though our results haven't changed."

London Irish welcome back wing Marland Yarde for the clash after he recovered from an ankle injury. Sailosi Tagicakibau moves inside to fill the number 12 shirt in place of the Jonathan Joseph while Scotland hooker Scott Lawson fills in for David Paice, who is away on England duty. Darren Allison earns his first start of the season at scrum-half. He will link up with Ian Humphreys who landed seven penalties and a conversion in the Exiles narrow loss to Harlequins.

"Friday evening will be a big test of how far we have come this season," director of rugby Brian Smith said. "We played some great rugby last weekend and were disappointed not to see it through. We need to make amends tomorrow night. We face a difficult challenge, Sale are a good side with some great players so it will be a tough ask; but one we are looking forward to."

Reigning champions Harlequins will hope that they can mark Nick Evans' new contract with a home win over a highly-confident Gloucester, who are unbeaten since losing on the opening day of the season. Both teams have had key players released back to them from England; Quins welcome back fullback Mike Brown and lock George Robson, while Gloucester include No.8 Ben Morgan in their starting team.

Jordan Turner-Hall is rested with a knee problem but Nick Evans, who committed his future to the club on Thursday, is back from injury and Sam Smith and Luke Wallace fill in for Ugo Monye and Chris Robshaw respectfully. Gloucester head coach Nigel Davies makes four changes from the side that beat Leicester with Matt Cox replacing Sione Kalamafoni on the blindside flank, Shane Monahan coming in for England wing Charlie Sharples, Dan Murphy packing down at loose-head prop and Martyn Thomas getting the nod at full back ahead of Rob Cook.

London Wasps travel to Saracens in confident mood following a run of four wins from four, three of which were with a bonus point. Saracens will be confident of winning at Vicarage Road however, after recording wins away to Harlequins and Northampton Saints so far this season. Wasps make five changes to the team that beat London Welsh last weekend with Chris Bell and Elliot Daly combining in the centre, Charlie Davies replacing the injured Joe Simpson at scrum-half, Rhys Thomas starting at hooker and James Haskell returning from England training.

Hooker Tom Lindsay has been an important member of the team on its recent run and knows that they will have to be at their best on Sunday. "We have taken a lot of confidence from the last four games, winning them all," he said. "There are obviously things for us to work on but there is a general sense that we are very close to, rather than scratching wins against sides, really breaking them. We have to make sure we are in the present, and this weekend is going to be very tough playing the team second in the table. We have to get all of our basics right and play in the right areas."

Saracens are without six players who are with England so Charlie Hodgson returns at fly-half while Chris Wyles, James Short and Kameli Ratuvou come into the backline. Up front Carlos Nieto starts at tight-head with Matt Stevens on the loose-head while Schalk Brits, who joins up with the South African touring squad after the match, is named at hooker. Ernst Joubert and Andy Saull make up the back row along with new Scotland captain Kelly Brown.

London Welsh welcome Bath to the Kassam Stadium on Sunday still ruing the slow start they made against Wasps in the most recent round of matches. Bath by contrast made a good start in their win over Exeter Chiefs, but faced a nervous last few minutes as they hung on for the win.

Bath will be without centre Dan Hipkiss though after he was handed a one-match ban for being sent off against Exeter Chiefs. Hipkiss appered before Rugby Football Union judicial officer His Honour Judge Jeff Blackett on Thursday where he received his ban. However, he is replaced by the returning Matt Banahan while Anthony Perenise starts at tighthead in place of David Wilson and Stuart Hooper and Will Skuse start instead of injured pair Carl Fearns and Francois Louw.

For London Welsh Tom Arscott returns at full-back after injury with Tom Voyce moving on to the wing. Gordon Ross takes over at fly-half with Gavin Henson combining with Sonny Parker in the centres and Nick Runciman at scrum-half. Two further changes in the forwards see Tom Bristow start at loose-head and Lee Beach comes into the side at No.8 for Alfie To'oala.

Exeter host Worcester Warriors on Saturday aiming to put three successive losses in the Premiership and Heineken Cup behind them. Worcester have enjoyed the past few weeks in which they beat Sale in the league and Bizkaia Gernika and Rovigo in the Amlin Challenge Cup.

For Exeter Sireli Naqelevuki returns to the midfield in place of the injured Jason Shoemark while Chris Whitehead plays at hooker, skipper Tom Hayes and Aly Muldowney form a new pairing in the second row and Dean Mumm moves to the blindside flank as Tom Johnson is away on international duty.

Worcester head coach Richard Hill makes five changes with Ed Shervington and Ceri Jones handed their first starts of the campaign, Dean Schofield returning to lock, Chris Jones packing down at No.8 and Josh Drauniniu is back on the wing.

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

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