Ryan expecting backlash

Guinness Premiership leaders Gloucester are braced for a potential Leicester backlash in their attempt to tame the Tigers at Welford Road on Saturday. [more]

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Guinness Premiership leaders Gloucester are braced for a potential Leicester backlash in their attempt to tame the Tigers at Welford Road on Saturday.

Gloucester will arrive on the back of opening league victories over Bath and Harlequins, aiming to end Leicester’s 27-match unbeaten Premiership home record since they triumphed 28-18 in January, 2004.

Duncan McRae’s injury-time try condemned the Tigers to their last Welford Road league loss, and current form favours a repeat result.

While Gloucester sent Quins packing last weekend, Leicester crashed 43-25 against Recreation Ground hosts Bath, conceding four tries and seeing three players sin-binned.

But Gloucester head coach Dean Ryan warned: "We know we will be facing a side reacting very strongly to a disappointment last weekend.

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"From our point of view, I think Harlequins told us we have a lot to work on as a team. We scored two very good tries, but we have to be much better in more areas.

"We have a group of individuals who deal with pressure and expectation each week, and I am sure we will be facing that tomorrow.

"We know we have to match them (Leicester) physically in certain areas, but we are looking forward to what should be a fantastic game."

Northampton could take out the frustration of a fruitless trip to Sale Sharks on Bath on Saturday when they protect an unbeaten six-year home league record against the west-country club.

Saints lost 32-20 at Edgeley Park last weekend, despite outscoring the champions 3-2 on tries, and left the north-west without any bonus points.

"I thought we should have got two points from the Sale game," said Northampton head coach Paul Grayson.

"We had Sale under pressure and we should have got a fourth try. Coming away from it, the sense of frustration from the players in not getting anything out of the game was evident, and that is a good thing."

Bristol have targeted a considerable improvement on last weekend’s bore-draw against Saracens as they prepare to tackle Madejski Stadium hosts London Irish.

Richard Hill’s men are one of only three unbeaten teams in the Premiership after just two rounds, but assistant coach Martin Haag expects that record to come under a fierce examination.

"We need to be better than we were against Saracens, particularly in the line-outs, where Irish are very strong," said Haag.

"But they are also very good at driving mauls and at counter-attacking and, in Riki Flutey and Mike Catt, they’ve got two brilliant players who can move the ball around.

"Irish are a top-four team, a Heineken Cup team, so it is going to be difficult for us. Brian Smith (Irish rugby director) seems to have taken the fear factor away from them and told them to take the ball and play with it."

Sunday’s action will see a probable entry into the Premiership arena for ex-Great Britain rugby league captain Andy Farrell.

Farrell, out of competitive rugby for almost two years due to repeated injury setbacks, made a successful return in Guinness A League action earlier this week, and is now on Saracens’ bench against Vicarage Road opponents Newcastle.

Wasps, meanwhile, will be strong favourites to chalk up a third successive league win when Harlequins arrive at Adams Park.

Rugby director Ian McGeechan has chosen two fly-halves in the Wasps midfield, with Dave Walder starting at number 10 and Jeremy Staunton filling the inside centre berth.

"Putting Jeremy at 12 gives us an extra decision-maker and opens up our options," said McGeechan.

"He has had a good week in training, and I am looking forward to seeing how this combination performs together again on Sunday."

Quins, who will be without former Wasps centre Stuart Abbott as he begins a three-week suspension, know they must tighten up defensively after Gloucester punished weak tackling last Saturday by scoring tries.

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