How are the teams getting on so far?
London Irish grabbed a morale-boosting bonus point victory in the first game of the season at Harlequins, but have lost all their games since then and are currently one place away from bottom at eleventh.
Leicester, who started the season with defeats to Bath and Northampton respectively, have bounced back well recording consecutive victories against Gloucester, Harlequins and defending champions Exeter. They snuck into the playoffs at fourth last season and will be hopeful of a similar performance in 17/18.
What to get excited about:
Will Leicester go from strength to strength? Leicester have been building momentum after a few wins and will be looking to hammer home that point with a good win on Saturday. The story of their recent games has been the development of the Youngs, Ford, Toomua axis at 9, 10 and 12 who have started to control proceedings well. Ford has been under constant pressure for his England place in recent times, with the threat of Farrell being moved inside to Fly-Half looming constant. He will want to continue to show Eddie Jones what he can offer in partnership with England scrum-half Youngs and a playmaker like Toomua outside him as Leicester look to establish themselves as one of the better teams in the league.
Front row indulgence– London Irish obviously decided that they were not going to be outgunned in the front-row department when putting together a squad for Premiership survival. They’ve added former Saracens stalwart Petrus Du Plessis and Australian international Saia Fainga’a to a group that already included All Black Ben Franks and forgotten England man David Paice. Leicester will not be intimidated as they boast Dan Cole, arguably the most consistent tighthead in the league over the last decade, to partner Ellis Genge, a rising star and dynamic ball-carrier who seems destined for greater things. In-between them lies Tom Youngs, a former Leicester captain who is one of the toughest operators in the Premiership and it is likely that the will be replaced by Harry Thacker during the latter stages, a flair hooker in the Schalke Brits mold. It will be a fascinating battle between the two front rows both at scrumtime and in the loose.
Who will London Irish play on the wings? On the other side of the pitch, The Exiles have brought some serious firepower up with them. Clubman Topsy Ojo, who ran away from the All Blacks a lifetime ago, looked as good as he ever has in Week One, while Alex Lewington has shown himself to be one of the most dangerous attackers in the league. On top of these two, enormous Fijian and former Clermont star Napalioni Nalaga made his debut last week and monstrous youngster Joe Cokansiga made his first appearance of the season for the 2nd XV after an injury layoff. It isn’t certain which of these four will combine but they are all worth tuning in to see.
London Irish have looked tough so far and seem to be offering more than Bristol did last season, however I would be surprised if they can turn over the Tigers even at The Madejski Stadium. Leicester have looked to be growing in strength in recent weeks and I would expect that to continue with a comfortable victory.