Premiership Rugby on two-week break — but which team will benefit from some rest and who...

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May 8, 2002
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Winners Harlequins Having lost to Bristol, had a game cancelled against Worcester and then worryingly watch a big lead disappear against London Irish, this is a chance for Harlequins to reset. Paul Gustard's post-match quotes on Sunday — "It's the same thing happening week on week, the team is hurting and are upset" — are a bit concerning. Fifteen players were unavailable ahead of last weekend too, meaning at least the squad's health can improve. Gloucester Another team who need to evaluate where things are going wrong, given Gloucester sit bottom of the table and have won one game in six in the league. They were right in the mix away at Newcastle until the final quarter before falling off. This is a long-term project, and maybe George Skivington and his coaching staff can use this time to reassess what is not clicking. Newcastle Falcons When Newcastle lost to Bristol the other week, Dean Richards noted that the absence of some key starters had been a key factor. Brett Connon and George McGuigan were back in the win over Gloucester and now after a cracking start, with four wins from five, the Falcons can rest up, be happy about the good work done so far, and get ready for the next set of matches. Neutral Worcester Warriors Worcester need wins, no question, but they also had 15 players unavailable ahead of their loss to Sale on the weekend and some key names too: Ollie Lawrence, Matt Moulds, Melani Nanai, Billy Searle, GJ van Velze and Francois Venter. Getting any of that group back would be a plus during the next two weeks, Lawrence and Venter in midfield especially. Leicester Tigers A bit of a frustrating time given the Tigers have not been able to build on the momentum created by that home win over Bath. But, the break gives Steve Borthwick more time to work with what he admits is a new-look squad ahead of facing Sale at the end of the month. George Martin, Freddie Steward and the club's other promising youngsters can get some extra attention. Losers Bristol Bears Surging right now and eyeing up a fifth Premiership win on the bounce, Bristol now have to sit with their arms folded for a few weeks. It's not ideal for their momentum, sitting at the top of the table after six rounds. And it's also a blow for Kyle Sinckler, should he be suspended later on Tuesday, because any ban may now eat into the Six Nations. Hopefully the time off will allow Bristol to get some of Harry Thacker, Max Malins, Henry Purdy, Chris Vui and Siale Piutau back healthy among others. Bath A couple of back-breaking defeats to Leicester and Wasps in last Friday's points jamboree at The Rec will have probably left Bath scratching at the walls to get back on the field and put things right. The momentum which the club had after lockdown, making the play-offs from far back, has deserted them. There don't appear to be a huge amount of first XV players missing through injury either. Wasps Like Bristol, in that Wasps are on a bit of a hot run of form, defeating Sale, Exeter and Bath since Boxing Day, and now risk losing that momentum. Alfie Barbeary and Zach Kibirige at least get to spend the next couple of weeks recovering from recent injuries without missing any games, but even so, the timing is all off for Wasps with last season's finalists on a good run. London Irish Boy, spare a thought for the Exiles, who have almost had the most disrupted calendar out of everyone over the past two months. By the time they take the field at home to Newcastle on Jan 31, they will have played three games in seven weeks, having also had to shut their training centre for a fortnight due to Covid-19. Les Kiss noted the club expected to get half a dozen players at least back available this week, so that's something. Exeter Chiefs Whereas teams like Harlequins and Gloucester can use this time to reassess what they are trying to achieve, Exeter know who they are, and the one thing they will want to do after defeats to Wasps and Bristol is to get back on the field and put things right. Smarting after last Saturday's defeat, the time off will at least mean Jack Nowell and Jannes Kirsten, long-term injuries, don't miss too many more matches. Both could be back by the end of February. Sale Sharks Killer timing for Sale just as they were starting to win under Paul Deacon, after picking up victories over Gloucester and Worcester, allowing them to start moving on from Steve Diamond's time in charge. Daniel du Preez's suspension will also last a little longer too, having only served one game of his three-match ban. Lood de Jager, Ben Curry and Manu Tuilagi all remain long-term injuries. Northampton Saints Winners the last time they played on Boxing Day, Saints have since had two games cancelled. It will be over a month between drinks by the time they're next in action against Gloucester on January 30. Tom Wood still has two games to serve on his ban for a dangerous clearout against Leinster too, and there's a real risk some Saints players will lose match fitness. Not ideal at all.

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