The Aviva Premiership is set for a pulsating climax this weekend as the four teams to make up the play-offs will be decided.
Northampton Saints may have already confirmed their place in the semi-finals – and a plum home draw – thanks to winning the league phase of the competition, but five more teams are battling it out for the final three berths.
Bath look the most comfortable in second place, with the West Country side knowing that even a draw against Gloucester will see them home.
The undoubted tie of the round takes place at Welford Road, where third-placed Leicester Tigers take on Northampton. This is a real clash of the titans, with the Tigers needing a win to confirm their place in the last four and the Saints doing all they can to ensure that their arch rivals don’t progress.
Leicester have only lost one of their last eight Aviva Premiership encounters, and have only lost once at Welford Road since November 2013. They are aiming to secure their spot in their eleventh consecutive play-offs.
But Northampton will put up a good fight despite already being safely through. They too have only tasted defeat once in their last eight games, and will want some momentum to take into the Play-Offs which will take place on May 23.
Best of the Rest
There is set to be an almighty scrap for the fourth and final play-off place.
The side currently in fourth are Exeter Chiefs, and they host a Sale Sharks side who, despite being in seventh in the table, have plenty to play for themselves.
Exeter are fourth by virtue of a better points difference than fifth-placed Saracens, and will know that the Sarries take on the win-less London Welsh. With them likely to pick up a bonus point win over their beleaguered opponents, fans of the Chiefs will know that they too will need a bonus point victory to have any chance.
The good news is that they are in terrific form, having only suffered a solitary defeat in any competition since September.
The stakes are high for Sale too, however. They must win to keep their hunt for a Champions Cup spot for the 2016/16 season alive, but the Sharks have been like a fish out of water on their travels this season, with only one win on the road since November.
All in all, we’re set for a grandstand conclusion to the Aviva Premiership season.
Bookies Backing Saints
It’s perhaps no surprise that the bookmakers are backing Northampton to lift the Premiership crown after the Grand Final on May 30. There are so many permutations to come that they are a sensible pre play-off bet at 13/8.
Bath (2/1) should have enough to get through and avoid a clash with the Saints in the last four, and they are likely to meet Leicester, whose formidable home form should be enough to see them through (8/1).
Saracens (7/2) are hot favourites to usurp Exeter (10/1) and finish fourth in the table. Alas, they will have the unenviable task of playing Northampton away in their play-off.