6 Things to Look for in the Aviva Premiership This Weekend
With Danny Cipriani pulling out somewhat of a master-class performance during Sale's Friday night win over London Wasps, this Aviva Premiership weekend has already begun in surprising style.
However, that doesn't mean the shocks are set to end there, with the potential for the unforeseen just about everywhere one looks in the league.
Whether an already anticipated storyline or something with far more potential for surprise, read on for the must-watch aspects of this weekend's Premiership matchups.
1. North's First Premiership Points
Given the build-up associated with his arrival in England's top flight, it's, perhaps, a little surprising that George North still hasn't crossed over for Northampton this season yet.
However, for a player of his caliber, it's simply a matter of when, not if, the Welsh winger will do the deed, and en masse at that.
This week, North comes up against a Gloucester defence that David Strettle ripped to shreds at times, meaning the British and Irish Lion star can, perhaps, hope to have a similar individual impact.
2. Leicester's English Trio Return
After sitting on the sidelines for varying periods of time already this season, this weekend sees the return of Toby Flood, Ben Youngs and Manu Tuilagi to the Leicester fold.
Although injured, the latter has had a busy week in the controversy stakes after he was filmed putting up bunny ears behind Prime Minister David Cameron's head at No. 10 Downing Street.
With that photo op now firmly behind him, Tuilagi is one of several Tigers stars who can simply get back to what it is he does best.
Although impressive, at points, already this term, the addition of such key figures will, undoubtedly, create more of a conundrum for Newcastle.
3. Saracens Big Guns Get Serious
Just as Leicester have had their share of injury woes in recent weeks, Saracens have, too, and will welcome back a few pivotal members of the squad this weekend.
While Mako Vunipola and Schalk Brits are likely to get their first starts of the season, Alex Goode is another who may claim his first 2013/14 Premiership minutes against Bath.
With such talented players now coming back into the setup after varying times away, the Londoners would certainly appear to be in better shape to defend the standards of last season.
4. Chiefs Continue Their Reign
After the highs of last week's win over London Wasps, Exeter face a tricky away trip London Irish in what should be a test of the team's resolve when coming off the back of a good victory.
However, Rob Baxter's men do have the talent in their locker necessary to come out on top; it's just a matter of now stringing it together on a consistent basis.
Last week saw Tom James come in off his wing and to great effect. Can the former Cardiff Blues asset spring another surprise on the Exiles?
5. Allianz Park Hosts Fixture of the Week
One of two standout fixtures this weekend pitting potential playoff sides against one another, Saracens' meeting with Bath threatens to end the Londoners' winning start to the campaign.
Already this term, Bath are beginning to show the qualities of a club capable of moving back into the upper echelon of European rugby, their back line, in particular, beginning to take shape.
Saracens will have a tough time containing the team that overcame Leicester last weekend, and will have the scent of blood on their radar, as they seek another underdog victory.
6. Weather-Influencing Upset Alert
With Europe's top leagues firmly back underway, it's not long now until the autumn and winter seasons are back alongside them, as was hinted at last weekend.
In wet conditions, Northampton were able to edge out a win over Harlequins while Newcastle's result against Sale was also influenced by the powers that be.
It looks like this weekend is set to be another patchy one in terms of relying on the weather, where another stormy spell in England's territories could have their say in any "David vs. Goliath" encounter.