It may be too soon for bold predictions, but here is one anyway. Saracens won’t be relegated — well, not unless the mid-season audit of their accounts uncovers another salary cap breach.
If their fate comes down to on-field matters, the beleaguered Gallagher Premiership champions will survive giving all the rest a 35-point head-start.
That was their penalty for past cap offences, but their plight has galvanised them, as illustrated by Friday night’s victory at Bath.
Owen Farrell's Saracens should still stave off relegation despite being docked 35 points
Mark McCall’s squad contains such a depth of class and tactical conviction that Saracens can absorb a large number of Test call-ups and still end up with a mid-table league finish.
That spells trouble for Leicester. On the evidence of their ordeal at Franklin’s Gardens on Saturday, the Tigers’ current, 22-point advantage over Saracens won’t be enough to save them. By the end of the one-sided East Midlands derby, they had become a rabble. For those so familiar with their years of domestic dominance, it was a jarring spectacle.
Every now and then, Leicester managed to drive a maul, but there wasn’t much else for the visitors to fall back on. Their lineout was a car-crash — a problem area crying out for Steve Borthwick’s expertise, whenever the England forwards coach makes his move to Welford Road.
Northampton beat Leicester in East Midlands Derby and the Tigers could be in trouble
Head coach Geordan Murphy may struggle to keep his regime intact at Leicester Tigers
From Eddie Jones’ point of view, Saracens being relegated would be very bad news. Leicester going down wouldn’t be ideal either.
The Australian claimed that some Saracens players might not want to appear in the Six Nations in order to aid their club’s survival mission, but that is a red herring. If he picks a player, they must be released by their club under Regulation 9, unless they retire from Test rugby.
So instead, Jones might be tempted to rotate his squad during the championship and rest some senior players. If, for example, he decided to release 10 regulars back to their clubs, Saracens would receive more of a boost than many rivals, by virtue of having a larger England contingent.
If the champions or the Tigers drop to the Championship, their Red Rose men would need to seek loan deals to keep them in the Premiership and available for national service. However neutral he must be, Jones must hope it doesn’t come to that.
The Tigers need urgent defensive guidance, too. At present, they lack organisation, resilience and sheer bloody-minded spirit.
Geordan Murphy’s regime cannot remain intact if it doesn’t at least look like the players are unified and driven to perform an escape act.
Wasps are also on the endangered list, but they appear to have slightly more quality in the ranks, so they could recover.
What a contrast there was between Leicester and the soaring Saints. Chris Boyd has overseen a stunning transformation at Northampton. His team are fluent and dynamic, while still possessing a tough edge of physicality, as can be expected under the guidance of a canny New Zealander.
It is glorious to witness the back-line exuberance of George Furbank, Tom Collins and Rory Hutchinson, alongside a rampaging force of nature in the giant form of Taqele Naiyaravoro.
Time will tell if the Saints have enough reserves of forward clout to prevail in arm-wrestle contests and push title favourites Exeter, but they are liberated and lethal.
Northampton could be heading to the Premiership final, while Leicester could