x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

Key opens an escape route for lowly Leeds

Andy Key, the Leeds coach, warned his players there is still a long way to go if they are to avoid relegation.

Andy Key, the Leeds coach, warned his players there is still a long way to go if they are to avoid relegation. They host Saracens today after recent victories over relegation rivals Sale Sharks and Wasps. "We are still at the bottom of the table and need to make sure we keep working hard for one another," said Key. "We were delighted with the players' performance against Wasps and their ability to close out the game. There is a great feeling within the squad but a realisation that our situation has not changed."

Brendan Venter, the Saracens coach, has made six changes, five of them in the pack, following a 16-14 defeat at home to Bath last weekend. Saracens were the early-season Premiership pacesetters but they have lost four of their last five league games since. Leeds are level with free-falling Sale, who face Northampton today, on 23 points. Sale are desperate to arrest a run of seven straight defeats, including three on the bounce in the Guinness Premiership.

They apologised to supporters following that defeat to Leeds and last weekend's 49-3 demolition at Gloucester prompted Brian Kennedy, the owner, to cut short his holiday. With the Six Nations on hold this weekend, Dwayne Peel, the Wales scrum-half, is available to start as one of six changes for Sale. Northampton boast an interesting change of their own, having included the former Australia lock Dan Vickerman on the bench for the first time this season.

Wasps have dropped Danny Cipriani to the bench following their defeat to Leeds with Dave Walder taking over at fly-half against Gloucester, who give first Premiership starts to prop Pierre Capdevielle, fly-half Tim Taylor and scrum-half Andy Williams. Bath travel to Newcastle fresh from announcing that Lewis Moody, the Leicester and England flanker, will be joining them next season.

In last night's action, Rory Clegg's try and three penalties helped Harlequins to edge a close encounter 14-11 against struggling Worcester. sports@thenational.ae