Its tight at the top as the Aviva Premiership resumes

Updated: December 21, 2012

The Aviva Premiership returns this weekend following  the last 2 rounds of the Heineken Cup. Its tight at the top, with only 3 points separating the top 4, and only 5 points separating the top 6. Either one of the Harlequins (33), Saracens (32), Northampton Saints (31) or Leicester Tigers (30) could top the standings at the conclusion of the weekend’s play.

The key fixture of the round will see the table-topping Harlequins travel to Franklin’s Gardens to take on third-placed Northampton Saints knowing that defeat would see them knocked off their Premiership perch.

Saracens and Leicester Tigers also hit the road and will be determined to get the better of their hosts Bath and London Irish to make a case for the number one spot.

Worcester Warriors’ last nine matches in all competitions have all been won by the home side on the day. The Warriors’ single defeat at Sixways this season – 24-23 to Bath – came on the opening weekend of the Premiership on September 1.

London Welsh gained a fourth victory in their debut season of Premiership rugby at home to London Irish on December 1 – just one of those wins have so far come on the road: a 29-19 win at Sale on September 21.

This is the two clubs’ first ever clash in England’s top-flight, but they have been regular protagonists at lower levels. Of the 18 previous league meetings between the two, Worcester have won the last 17 with the Exiles’ solo victory over the Warriors being 28-13 at Sixways in National One on October 25, 1997.

Bath’s last seven games in the Premiership have all been won by the home side on the day. Bath’s only defeat in their last eight matches at The Rec in all competitions was an 18-14 loss to Northampton in the Premiership on September 14.

Saracens’ last seven encounters in all competitions have also been won by the home side on the day, whilst Sarries have not won away from home since they beat Northampton 16-6 at Franklin’s Gardens in the Premiership on October 27.

However, Saracens remain the best away side in the Premiership with 17 league points accumulated on their travels so far. Saracens are in second spot in the table despite scoring and conceding just nine tries in their ten games so far.

Bath’s only victory in their last seven fixtures with Saracens in all competitions was a 16-14 win at Vicarage Road in the Premiership on February 28, 2010. Sarries have won on their last three visits to The Rec.

Gloucester’s only loss in their last six games in all competitions was a 28-23 defeat at Saracens in the Premiership on December 2. Gloucester have suffered just one home defeat at Kingsholm this season: going down 24-19 to Northampton on the opening weekend.

Exeter Chiefs have won their last seven matches in all competitions since their 23-15 reversal to Bath at The Rec on October 27 – their best run since November 2009. The Chiefs have won their last three away games.

The four previous Premiership encounters between the two clubs have been shared two wins apiece. The Chiefs won 28-27 on their most recent visit to Kingsholm on March 24, 2012.

London Irish have won just one of their last eight matches in all competitions: a 34-28 win at home to Sale in the Anglo-Welsh Cup on November 11. The Exiles have not been victorious at Madejski Stadium in the Premiership since beating Northampton there 39-17 on October 6.

Leicester Tigers’ solitary defeat in their last six fixtures was a 14-12 loss to London Wasps at Adams Park in the Premiership on November 25. The Tigers have won only one of their last four away games in the Premiership: a 20-8 victory at Sale on October 5.

London Irish have won only one of their last ten encounters with the Tigers in all tournaments: an 18-12 win at Reading in the Premiership on October 24, 2009. Leicester have won on three of their last four visits to Madejski Stadium.

London Wasps have lost only one of their last five matches in all competitions: a 30-23 defeat at Exeter Chiefs in the Premiership on December 1. Wasps have won all seven games they have played at Adams Park this season.

Sale Sharks’ single win in their last eleven Premiership encounters was a 21-9 victory at home to London Irish on November 2. The Sharks’ only away win in the Premiership in 2012 was a 24-19 triumph at Gloucester on April 21.

Sale achieved the Premiership double over Wasps last season, whilst their overall record at Adams Park is won four, lost seven.