Bristol boss Pat Lam is relishing the challenge that awaits his team against a “fully-loaded” Saracens on Saturday. The Gallagher Premiership’s second-placed side head to Allianz Park without an away victory over Saracens since 2006.

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Saracens’ significant points deduction for breaching Premiership salary cap regulations sees them sitting exactly the total they were punished – 35 points – behind Bristol. Lam’s men could go top of the table if they win and current leaders Northampton are beaten by Sale Sharks, and the Bears are currently on an undefeated seven-match run.

They [Saracens] will be fully-loaded because of the situation they are in,” said Lam on his club’s official website. “There is no reason for them to be complacent at all, so if we manage to pull off the victory, it’s going to be a huge achievement.

“This is another good barometer that we look for to see how we are going and how we’re going to deal with this challenge, and that’s what I’m excited by.”

Saracens, 22 points adrift of eleventh-placed Leicester, are fresh from reviving their Heineken Champions Cup campaign by defeating Munster last weekend. And they parade many of their star names – including Owen Farrell, Jamie George, Maro Itoje and Billy Vunipola – for Bristol’s visit.

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Exeter will be waiting for any slip-ups from Northampton and Bristol, knowing that victory over Leicester at Welford Road could see them climb into first spot. The Chiefs have rested internationals such as Jack Nowell, Nic White and Luke Cowan-Dickie, but their squad strength is such that they parade a powerful line-up captained by England centre Henry Slade.

Chiefs head coach Ali Hepher is taking little notice of Leicester’s league position as they target a fourth win of the Premiership campaign. “You only have to look at Leicester’s teamsheet to see they have quality running throughout their team,” Hepher said.

“They are a massive threat, and they’ve had time to recharge themselves and get ready to go again this weekend. The World Cup probably didn’t help them at the start of the season, losing so many players like they did.

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“You can see, though, they are now starting to put together some partnerships and some combinations which are extremely dangerous. That means we have to make sure we are organised and aware of the threats, but also look for opportunities ourselves.”

Northampton have scrum-half Cobus Reinach and lock Courtney Lawes back for the trip to face Sale, with Sharks bolstered by returning star backs Chris Ashton and Faf de Klerk. Sale boss Steve Diamond said: “Chris Boyd has done a fantastic job with Northampton in his short time with the club.

“The Saints will provide a great test for us this weekend. We will have to be at our best to come away with a result against the in-form team in the league.”

Elsewhere on Saturday, Wasps host Harlequins at the Ricoh Arena – Chris Robshaw makes his 200th Quins appearance – while Sunday’s Premiership action sees London Irish hosting a Bath team boosted by Anthony Watson’s return from injury.

– Press Association 

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