Dylan Hartley ready to start after scoring try in Northampton's win over Harlequins

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Dylan Hartley declared himself ready to start after scoring a key try in Northampton’s 25-18 Premiership victory over Harlequins.

Ten minutes after coming on as a third-quarter replacement, Hartley finished the line-out drive that put a dent in the first of Quins’ two fightbacks in a scruffy clash at Franklin’s Gardens.

The England captain’s comeback from a concussion-enforced extended break from the game dating back to March has so far encompassed two competitive matches from the bench, but he is ready to make a full contribution if required.

“There’s always work to do. You can have all the pre-season conditioning but there’s nothing like playing a game. It was good to get some minutes on the board,” Hartley said.

“I rolled my eyes when I saw (hooker) James Fish go down in the first half, a bit like Gloucester last week I thought I’d just be getting a few minutes in the second half.

“I was pretty keen to get on again. It is best when it happens like that when you are least expecting it. It caught me off guard.

“I will be ready for a start whenever the coach picks me for a start. Until then I will support.”

Hartley is expected to be reinstated as England skipper after missing the summer tour to South Africa and against Harlequins he produced a solid 25 minutes in front of Eddie Jones.

“Dylan could have started against Gloucester last weekend,” Saints director of rugby Chris Boyd said.

“We’ve agreed that we’ll pick players, irrespective of past experience, on form. James Fish was really good for us pre-season.

“Dylan’s had a couple of nice little cameos off the bench, we’ll work out before next Saturday whether it’s the right thing for him to start.

“He’ll always make a contribution, he’s a really good footballer, a fierce competitor, a good leader.”

Northampton had to withstand a late surge from Quins who showed resilience to hit back from 25-11 down to haul themselves within inches of a draw.

“These were the type of games we were losing last season. First game at home, we are off the mark, points on the board,” Hartley said.

Paul Gustard slipped to his first defeat as Harlequins boss, but took heart in the display.

“I was more proud of that performance than the one the week before that we won. We had to fight for things. We tried and showed tenacity and resilience,” Gustard said.

England internationals Joe Marler and Mike Brown missed the game with respective dead leg and hand issues, neither of which are serious.

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Wallabies drop Bernard Foley as Springboks make six changes

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Bernard Foley was dropped Thursday in a major backline shake-up by the Wallabies, with the Springboks also ringing in the changes for a match they are both desperate to win after recent crushing Rugby Championship defeats.

Australia have lost six of their past seven games, and ceded the Bledisloe Cup to New Zealand for the 16th consecutive year after a 40-12 hammering in Auckland and a 38-13 thrashing in Sydney.

The South Africans have not fared as badly but head into the clash in Brisbane on Saturday on the back of a demoralising 32-19 loss to Argentina in Mendoza.

Kurtley Beale was selected to start his first Test in the No.10 jersey since 2014 and tasked with directing the show from fly-half, alongside the experienced Matt Toomua who was promoted to inside centre and will have goalkicking duties.

In a further change to the backs, Israel Folau returns after an ankle injury ruled out him out of the second Bledisloe Cup Test. The star fullback only returned to light training this week.

Key backrower David Pocock also defied the odds to be selected after being in doubt with a neck injury.

Brumbies lock Rory Arnold will start in the second row for his first Test of 2018 while “Tongan Thor” prop Taniela Tupou has overcome a hamstring complaint to take his place on the bench.

Australia and South Africa couldn’t be split in their two encounters last year with a 23-all draw in Perth before a 27-all draw in Bloemfontein.

Springboks coach Johan “Rassie” Erasmus also opted for change.

Steven Kitshoff and Bongi Mbonambi form a new front row next to Frans Malherbe, while Tendai Mtawarira and Malcolm Marx are replacements.

Captain Siya Kolisi returns to the blindside flanker role after playing on the opposite side of the scrum against Argentina in Mendoza, with Pieter-Steph du Toit at openside flanker.

Warren Whiteley completes the loose trio at No.8.

Elton Jantjies swaps places at flyhalf with Handre Pollard while Faf de Klerk again starts as scrum-half.

Erasmus also rotated his midfield, which means a first start this year for Damian de Allende, who will resume his centre partnership with Jesse Kriel.

Aphiwe Dyantyi, Makazole Mapimpi and Willie le Roux complete the backline.

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Bears go for two in a row while Wasps try to sting Chiefs in Round 2 of Premiership Rugby

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Jamie Roberts' Bath career started with a loss to Bristol

After a thrilling opening weekend of Premiership Rugby, and the first coach sacking of the season, we look ahead to all the Round 2 action this weekend.

Here are our previews:

Friday September 7

Northampton Saints v Harlequins (Franklin’s Gardens, 22.45 UAE time)

Referee: Tom Foley (53rd Premiership game).

Northampton slipped up at Gloucester on Saturday and have not begun a season with a pair of defeats in rounds 1 and 2 since 2003/04. The Saints have won three of their last five home games in Premiership Rugby, the defeats being to Sale and Saracens in March and April.

Harlequins 51-23 home win over Sale Sharks ended a five-game losing run in Premiership Rugby. The Londoners have not won their opening two games in the tournament since season 2012/13 whilst their most recent away victory in Premiership Rugby came at Wasps in round 3 last year.

The last five meetings between the two have all been won by the home side on the day with ‘Quins most recent victory at Franklin’s Gardens coming in December 2012.

Marcus Smith is on a streak of seven successive successful kicks at goal.

Saturday September 8

Wasps v Exeter Chiefs (Ricoh Arena, 17:00 UAE time)

Referee: Christophe Ridley (7th Premiership game).

Wasps only defeat in their last five Gallagher Premiership Rugby fixtures was in last season’s semi-final to Saracens at Allianz Park. Wasps have won their opening two games of the season for the past two years. Wasps only defeat at the Ricoh Arena in Premiership Rugby since last October was to Saracens on January 7.

Exeter only defeat since mid-February in any competition was in last season’s Premiership Rugby final to Saracens at Twickenham Stadium. The Chiefs have won their last three away games since they tripped up at Wasps in round 15 last season.

Overall in Premiership Rugby the two clubs have met on 18 previous occasions with Exeter winning twelve, Wasps five and one game drawn. The Devonians only previous victory at Ricoh Arena was 41-27 in December 2015.

Leicester Tigers v Newcastle Falcons (Welford Road, 18:00 UAE time)

Referee: Matthew Carley (76th Premiership game).

Leicester Tigers only victory in their last four Premiership Rugby fixtures was at Sale in round 22 last season. 2017-18 began with a pair of defeats for the Tigers, the only previous time this has occurred in Premiership Rugby history.

The Tigers, no longer with Matt O’Connor at the helm, have lost their last two home games in the tournaments, to Northampton and Newcastle, and have only once before lost three in a row at Welford Road in Premiership Rugby – at the start of the 2011/12 campaign.

Newcastle Falcons have lost their last three Premiership Rugby matches since beating Leicester at Welford Road in April – their only victory in their last five away games in all tournaments.

The Falcons have won just two of their last 17 encounters with Leicester, at Kingston Park in February 2016 and Welford Road in April.

Sione Kalamafoni has played 99 Premiership matches.

Saracens v Bristol Bears (Allianz Park, 18:00 UAE time)

Referee: Andrew Jackson (15th Premiership game).

Saracens have won their last eight Gallagher Premiership Rugby matches, scoring at least four tries in each of the last seven. Saracens have lost just once at Allianz Park in Premiership Rugby since November: to Leicester in February.

Bristol Bears have won their last six competition matches since tripping up at home to Jersey Reds in last year’s RFU Championship. Bristol’s most recent away game in Premiership Rugby was also at Allianz Park, losing 9-27 there to Saracens in April 2017.

Saracens have won their last five fixtures against Bristol in Premiership Rugby since the Bears 18-3 win at Memorial Stadium in January 2008.

David Strettle is on 49 Premiership tries

Richard Wigglesworth is on 263 Premiership appearances, two behind record holder Steve Borthwick.

Bath Rugby v Gloucester Rugby (Recreation Ground, 22.30 UAE time)

Referee: Luke Pearce (77th Premiership game).

Bath Rugby have won just two of their last seven Gallagher Premiership Rugby matches, at Gloucester in April and at home to London Irish in May. Bath have not lost their opening two matches of a Premiership Rugby campaign since 2009/10.

Gloucester beat Northampton 27-16 at Kingsholm in round 1 but have not won their opening two fixtures of a season since 2007-08. Gloucester’s only victory in their last six away games in Premiership Rugby was on a visit to London Irish in March. Each side won its respective away game when the two sides met last season. Gloucester have won just once in their last four visits to the Recreation Ground in all competitions.

Sunday September 9

Sale Sharks v Worcester Warriors (AJ Bell Stadium, 18:00 UAE time)

Referee: JP Doyle (154th Premiership game).

Sale Sharks slipped to a fourth successive Gallagher Premiership Rugby defat at Harlequins on Saturday. The Sharks two defeats in their last seven Premiership Rugby encounters at AJ Bell Stadium were to Saracens in round 15 and Leicester in round 22 last season.

Worcester Warriors have won just two of their last eight Gallagher Premiership Rugby matches, both at home in April, to Newcastle and Harlequins. The Warriors won just twice on the road in the competition last season, at Leicester in November and at Exeter in February.

Sale have lost only one of their last nine fixtures with Worcester in Premiership Rugby, at Sixways in February 2016, whilst the last time that Warriors won on Sharks soil was at Edgeley Park in November 2008.

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