Simpson-Daniel makes timely return

James Simpson-Daniel could give England boss Andy Robinson a boost when he makes his delayed Guinness Premiership entry on Saturday. [more]

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James Simpson-Daniel could give England boss Andy Robinson a boost when he makes his delayed Guinness Premiership entry on Saturday.

The Gloucester wing, one of English rugby’s most lethal attacking forces, has recovered from an ankle injury and lines up against Kingsholm visitors Northampton.

Simpson-Daniel missed the opening three weekends of league action, but he now returns as Robinson prepares to announce his 30-man squad for autumn appointments with Australia, New Zealand and Samoa.

"I am just glad to be back and in the (Gloucester) team," said Simpson-Daniel, who has not played Test rugby since June last year.

"It has been a very frustrating time for me, and I have been disappointed not to be involved this season, but hopefully the injury is behind me and I can just get on with the season."

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Gloucester can make a real statement this weekend, with victory over Saints guaranteed to send them top of the Premiership.

But they will have to get there without England prop Phil Vickery, who misses out because of a shoulder injury that forced him off against Bristol last Sunday.

"Phil was very close to selection, but we decided it was best not to risk him," said Gloucester head coach Dean Ryan, after handing Vickery’s fellow World Cup winner Mike Tindall the captaincy duties.

Whatever the outcome of their west country mission, help will soon be at hand for struggling Saints after they secured an earlier-than-expected release of former All Blacks flanker Sam Harding from Canterbury.

Harding, who has a signed two-year contract with Northampton, is due to arrive in the east midlands on Monday.

Bristol boss Richard Hill hopes ‘the Chiropractor’ can leave a mark on Madejski Stadium hosts London Irish.

Samoan international Brian Lima, so nicknamed because of his tough-tackling, no-nonsense physical approach, has been switched from wing to centre following Bristol’s lame display against Gloucester last Sunday.

"It’s hard in this league, and defences are very good," said Hill.

"Brian is probably our strongest player physically to get us across the gain-line.

"He worked very hard in his first game last week, and he looked very good when he came in-field off his wing through the midfield and made some good yards.

"I am hoping he will punch a few holes in that midfield and then off-load to the runners outside him. I think that is where he will be most effective."

Irish, after a bright opening when they ran Leeds ragged at Twickenham, then slipped up with successive defeats against Worcester and Sale Sharks.

"They have not had the best of starts," added Hill. "This is a massive game for them – they will want four or five points from us.

"But we are looking forward to it after last weekend. We’ve been brought down to earth, but the attitude this week has been spot on."

One of this season’s four remaining unbeaten Premiership records will fall on Sunday, when champions Wasps and ever-improving Worcester clash at the Causeway Stadium.

Wasps, under the guidance of new rugby director Ian McGeechan, are moving smoothly into gear and Worcester have already marked only their second season in top-flight English rugby by beating London Irish and Saracens following a draw with Gloucester.

"While we have been reasonably happy with our start to the season, we know that Sunday’s game represents our biggest test so far," said Warriors rugby director John Brain.

"Wasps are a quality team, and they have had a very good start to the season. We will need to be at our best to get anything out of the game."

Elsewhere on Sunday, Bath make the long trip to Newcastle seeking a first win of the campaign, while Saracens host Sale Sharks and Leicester tackle rock-bottom Leeds at Headingley, a ground where Tigers have never won a league match.

"Leeds have obviously struggled in their first three games, but they always seem to turn their season around after they have played against us," said Leicester forwards coach Richard Cockerill.

"Last season, we were top of the table and they were bottom. We went there, got turned over and their season went from strength to strength.

"Unfortunately for us, it seems they are in a similar position this season. Phil Davies (Leeds rugby director) has been quoted as saying they need to kick-start their season, and who are they playing? They are playing us!"

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