Following an action-packed opening round the Aviva Premiership returns this weekend with sub-plots aplenty. Bath entertain Saracens on Saturday before Leicester travel to Northampton for the East Midlands derby.
The fun kicks off on Friday night with Newcastle’s trip to Sale. Get all the team news below and keep abreast of the action with ESPN.
Mark Jennings, in action against Newcastle in February, has been recalled to the Sale midfield. Alex Livesey/Getty Images
Sale Sharks vs. Newcastle Falcons
AJ Bell Stadium, 7.45 p.m.
Sale director of rugby Steve Diamond was critical of his side’s defence in their 50-35 defeat to Wasps last weekend, and he has made four changes to his starting XV as he looks to strengthen that area. Mark Jennings, Cameron Neild, Alex Tarus and Andre Ostrikov are drafted into the team as the Sharks look to open their home campaign with a win.
By contrast, Newcastle director of rugby Dean Richards — buoyed by his team’s 35-8 win against Worcester — has made just one change for the trip to the the AJ Bell Stadium. Hooker Kyle Cooper misses the match with a shoulder injury, meaning Scott Lawson has been handed the No. 2 shirt.
Sale Sharks: Haley, Solomona, Addison (c), Jennings, McGuigan, MacGinty, de Klerk; Harrison, Neild, Tarus, Beaumont, Ostrikov, Ross, T. Curry, Strauss.
Replacements: Jones, Flynn, Jon, Nott, B. Curry, Ioane, Cliff, James.
Newcastle Falcons: Hammersley, Tait, Harris, Matavesi, Agulla, Hodgson, Takulua; Vickers, Lawson, Welsh, Green, Witty, Wilson, Welch (c), Chick.
Replacements: Socino, Mavinga, Davison, Robinson, Robinson, Stuart, Socino, Goneva.
Bath welcome a free-scoring Saracens side to the Rec for what promises to be the game of the weekend. David Rogers/Getty Images
Bath vs. Saracens
The Recreation Ground, 2 p.m.
Following their dramatic win at Leicester last weekend, Bath face yet another significant test as they welcome Saracens to the Recreation Ground. Injury to Kane Palma- Newport forces Tabai Matson to make his only change in his penultimate game in charge of the West Country outfit, as Anthony Perenise comes into the front row to earn his first start since rejoining the club. Scott Andrews earns a place on the bench after joining the club on a short term loan from Cardiff Blues.
Despite cruising past the Northampton Saints in their season opener, Mark McCall has been forced to make two changes to the side which secured Saracens’ comfortable 55-24 rout. Chris Wyles and Michael Rhodes come into the starting XI to replace Sean Maitland and George Kruis, who are both absent with knocks. The changes see Nathan Earle move to the right wing and Maro Itoje return to the second row. Elsewhere, Lions stars Mako Vunipola and Owen Farrell return to the matchday squad, but only on the bench.
Bath: Watson, Rokoduguni, Joseph, Clark, Banahan, Priestland, Cook; Obano, Dunn, Perenise, Charteris, Stooke, Garvey (c), Louw, Faletau.
Replacements: Walker, Auterac, Andrews, Phillips, Grant, Fotuali’i, Burns, Tapuai.
Saracens: Goode, Earle, Taylor, Barritt (c), Wyles, Lozowski, Wigglesworth; Barrington, Brits, Koch, Day, Itoje, Rhodes, Burger, Wray.
Replacements: Tolofua, Vunipola, Figallo, Isiekwe, Earl, Spencer, Farrell, Williams.
Exeter Chiefs vs. London Irish
Sandy Park, 3 p.m.
Current Aviva Premiership champions Exeter will be looking to bounce back after their title defence got off to a rocky start last Friday with a narrow 28-21 defeat at the hands of Gloucester. In addition to a first start of the season for Lions winger Jack Nowell, Rob Baxter will be boosted by the return of Australian pair Mitch Lees and Dave Dennis, who replace Ollie Atkins and Matt Kvesic in the Chiefs’ pack.
Meanwhile, London Irish’s return to the top flight of English rugby started with an impressive 39-29 win over London rivals Harlequins at Twickenham. The Exiles have made just one change for their trip to Sandy Park, with Italian international Luke McLean coming in at outside centre for the injured Fergus Mulchrone.
Exeter Chiefs: Dollman, Nowell, Slade, Whitten, Woodburn, Steenson, White; Moon, Yeandle (c), Francis, Lees, Hill, Dennis, Armand, Simmonds.
Replacements: Taione, Rimmer, Williams, Skinner, Kvesic, Townsend, Bodilly, Turner.
London Irish: Bell, Lewington, Hearn, McLean, Ojo, Marshall, Steele; Hobbs-Awoyemi, Paice (c), Du Plessis, van der Merwe, De Chaves, Coman, Cowan, Treviranus.
Replacements: Porecki, Reid, Franks, McNally, Gilsenan, McKibbin, Tonks, Tikoirotuma.
Harlequins vs. Gloucester
Twickenham Stoop, 3 p.m.
In direct contrast to their opponents, Gloucester’s season got off to a dream start as they made a big statement in defeating reigning champs Exeter at Kingsholm. Despite their impressive win, Gloucester make four changes to the starting XV, with Matt Scott, Ruan Ackermann, Freddie Clarke, and Josh Hohneck all earning starts.
They travel to a Quins side which will be vastly different to the one which was upset by Irish at Twickenham. Director of rugby John Kingston has named four changes for the match, including a first start of the season for Kyle Sinckler, following the prop’s summer away with the Lions. He is joined in the starting XV by Joe Gray, George Merrick and Demetri Catrakilis, with 18-year-old Marcus Smith dropping to the bench.
Harlequins: Brown, Yarde, Marchant , Roberts, Walker, Catrakilis, Care; Marler, Gray, Kyle Sinckler, Merrick, Horwill (c), Robshaw, Ward, Clifford.
Replacements: Elia, Lambert, Collier, Glynn, Luamanu, Lewis, Smith, Stanley.
Gloucester: Woodward, Thorley, Scott, Symons, Purdy, Burns, Heinz; Hohneck, Hibbard, Balmain, Savage, Thrush, Ackermann, Ludlow, Clarke.
Replacements: Matu’u, Rapava-Ruskin, Afoa, Slater, Rowan, Vellacott, Twelvetrees, Sharples.
Northampton Saints vs. Leicester
Franklin’s Gardens, 4.30 p.m.
A week on from his side’s heavy defeat to Saracens, under pressure Saints boss Jim Mallinder will be hoping that his players can turn things around following their below par display. Faced with yet another big challenge in the form of Leicester, Mallinder has made several changes to his starting lineup, with George North, Teimana Harrison and Michael Paterson coming into the team alongside Australian international Rob Horne.
The Tigers could also do with coming away from Franklin’s Gardens with a win after Bath beat them at Welford Road for just the second since the Premiership started. Matt O’ Connor has reshuffled his forward unit for the encounter, reintroducing Lions tighthead Dan Cole and back rower Luke Hamilton. The only change in the backs sees Matt Smith come in for Manu Tuilagi, who is out for 12 weeks with a knee injury.
Northampton Saints: Tuala, North, Horne, Burrell, Collins, Mallinder, Groom; Waller, Hartley (c), Brookes, Paterson, Day, Lawes, Gibson, Harrison.
Replacements: Haywood, Ma’afu, Hill, Ratuniyarawa, Ludlam, Reinach, Grayson, Foden.
Leicester Tigers: Veainu, Malouf, Smith, Toomua, May, G. Ford, B. Youngs; Genge, T. Youngs (c), Cole, Barrow, Kitchener, Hamilton, O’Connor, Kalamafoni.
Replacements: Thacker, Bateman, Mulipola, Williams, Ryan, Harrison, J. Ford, Tait.
Dan Robson picked up four tries as Wasps put 50 points past Sale at the Ricoh last weekend. Malcolm Couzens/Getty Images
Worcester vs. Wasps
Sixways Stadium, 3 p.m.
Despite managing just eight points in their season opener against Newcastle, Worcester have made only two changes as they prepare to welcome a formidable Wasps side to Sixways. Gary Gold will be hoping that his side will provide greater attacking threat with Perry Humphreys replacing Dean Hammond on the wing, and Pierce Phillips earning his first start at lock, coming in for the injured Will Spencer.
Despite putting up 50 points on Sale at the Ricoh last Saturday, Wasps head coach Dai Young was disappointed by the defensive frailties his players showed in conceding 35 points. Dan Robson’s four tries last weekend see him keep the no.9 jersey as Young makes three adjustments. A hamstring problem sees Christian Wade replaced by Marcus Watson, as Guy Thompson and Ashley Johnson return to the forwards.
Worcester: Adams, Humphreys, Te’o, Willison, Heem, Heathcote, Arr; Bower, Singleton, Schonert, O’Callaghan (c), Phillips, Cox, Lewis, van Velze.
Replacements: Taufete’e, Waller, Alo, Scotland-Williamson, Faosiliva, Stringer, Olver, Shillcock.
Wasps: Le Roux, Watson, Lovobalavu, Gopperth, Bassett, Cipriani, Robson; McIntyre, Johnson, Cooper-Woolley, Launchbury (c), Myall, Rieder, Thompson, Hughes.
Replacements: Cruse, Mullan, Mullan, Doran-Jones, Symons, Willis, Simpson, Macken, Miller.
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