The new year has got off to an unfortunate start with two games called off because of Covid-19 infections (details below). It’s an unwelcome reminder that an exciting calendar of events for 2022 is still vulnerable.
But it leaves three distinctive matches to enjoy spread across the weekend.
There’s another West Country derby coming to Shaftesbury Park. Glos-Pury have made a habit of losing tight games this season; in three of them they have lost by a combined margin of eight points. The Bears have come unstuck twice after their blazing start, but they were 24-17 winners in the Round two reverse match. There’s every chance of extreme excitement here.
It’s available on the BBC Sport website, app and iPlayer, kick-off 12.30 pm.
Sadly the RFU’s own livestream was due to be the Wasps match. Cross fingers for a possible replacement.
The second match sees the two latest additions to the elite league meet in the north-west. Their fates have been very different, Exeter jostling for a top-4 finish, Sale finding wins hard to achieve. This will be another of the rare games to feature two female head coaches. Their total number remains stuck at four.
It’s a very different picture the next day, when the (almost) permanent leaders, Sarries, take on the one side that is causing the RFU grave worries, DMP Durham Sharks.
In a moment of pure fantasy you could imagine all Prem 15s players being required to return to their original (elite) club. In that case the Sharks could line up Abbie Ward, Beth Blacklock, Caity Mattinson, Claudia Macdonald, Heather Kerr, Jo Brown, Katy Daley-Mclean, Lisa Cockburn, Lisa Thomson, Tamara Taylor and Zoe Aldcroft among many other luminaries.
Bristol Bears v Gloucester-Hartpury
Wasps v Loughborough Lightning POSTPONED
Sale Sharks v Exeter
Quins v Worcester POSTPONED
Saracens v DMP Durham Sharks
Table P W L Pts
Bristol 9 7 2 36
Harlequins 9 7 2 34
Saracens 8 7 1 33
Exeter 9 6 3 29
Wasps 9 5 4 26
Gloucester-H 9 4 5 24
Loughborough 9 4 5 21
Worcester 8 2 6 12
Sale 8 1 7 6
DMPDS 8 0 8 0
The DMP-Worcester game from Round 6, postponed by bad weather, is due on 22 January. It’s just possible the other missing fixtures could be fitted in on that spare day.