Four games are scheduled for Sunday in the LV= Cup as London Welsh hope to end their winless record against a weakened Saracens side in Oxford.
London Welsh vs Saracens
London Welsh have made twelve changes, including one positional, for the visit of Saracens to the Kassam Stadium on Sunday in the LV= Cup.
The Exiles starting XV includes eight members of its Championship winning side, with five more named on the bench.
In the backs, Elliot Kear starts at full-back, Alan Awcock replaces Seb Stegmann on the right wing, while team captain Tom May returns to the starting line-up at outside centre. Nick Scott comes back into the team on the left wing.
In the forwards, Nathan Trevett, Koree Britton and Taione Vea form a new look front-row, while Ben West and James Down start in the second-row. Ben Pienaar moves from number eight to blindside flank, with Opeti Fonua coming back into the team, with Carl Kirwan named at openside.
On the bench, Alex Davies is set to make his first appearance of the season since suffering a knee injury in Welsh’s Championship semi-final 1st leg at Leeds Carnegie in May.
Meanwhile, Nils Mordt will captain Saracens on Sunday, as they look to maintain their 100 percent record in this seasons LV= Cup.
The dependable fly-half will partner Ben Spencer at half-back, whilst in the centres USA Eagle international Thretton Palamo starts alongside Academy midfielder Max Wilkins.
Romanian international Catalin Fercu starts at full-back, with England U20s squad member George Perkins and former England 7s flyer Mike Ellery named on the wings.
Up front, Jack Culverhouse is rewarded for his strong A-League form with at start at loosehead prop. He is joined by Jared Saunders and Biyi Alo in the Saracens front-row.
At lock, A-League pair Kennet O’Neill and Jack Tredrea will partner each other in the heart of the Saracens engine room.
Hayden Thompson-Stringer starts at blindside flanker, with Matt Hankin named on the opposite flank and Nick de Jager wearing the eight shirt.
London Welsh: 15 Elliot Kear, 14 Alan Awcock, 13 Tom May (c), 12 Olly Barkley, 11 Nick Scott, 10 Tristan Roberts, 9 Rob Lewis, 8 Opeti Fonua, 7 Carl Kirwan, 6 Ben Pienaar, 5 James Down, 4 Ben West, 3 Taione Vea, 2 Koree Britton, 1 Nathan Trevett.
Replacements: 16 Nathan Morris, 17 Eddie Aholelei, 18 Ben Cooper, 19 Dean Schofield, 20 Richard Thorpe, 21 Alex Davies, 22 Will Robinson, 23 James Lewis.
Saracens: 15 Catalin Fercu, 14 Mike Ellery, 13 Max Wilkins, 12 Threttom Palamo, 11 George Perkins, 10 Nils Mordt (c), 9 Ben Spencer, 8 Nick de Jager, 7 Matt Hankin, 6 Hayden Thompson-Stringer, 5 Jack Tredrea, 4 Kennett O’Neil, 3 Biyi Alo, 2 Jared Saunders, 1 Jack Culverhouse.
Replacements: 16 Josh Taylor, 17 Ralph Adams-Hale, 18 Ben Featherstone, 19 Hamish Hamilton, 20 James Stockdale, 21 Tom Whiteley, 22 Henry Staff, 23 Max Malins.
Kick-off: 14:30 GMT
Venue: Kassam Stadium
Referee: David Procter (England)
Assistant referees: Simon Harding (England), Roger Baileff (England)
Timekeeper: Eric Bullion (England)
Assessor: Chris White (England)
Newcastle Falcons vs Sale Sharks
Newcastle Falcons will field an experienced line-up against Sale Sharks this weekend as the North East club look to progress in the LV= Cup.
The side captained by Andy Saull sees eleven changes from the team that secured a bonus-point victory over Bucharest Wolves in Cluj last Saturday and earned the Falcons a place in the European Challenge Cup quarter finals.
One notable change is Tongan international Uili Kolo’ofai, who returns from injury to join Saull and Richard Mayhew in the back row for what will be his second competitive appearance since picking up an injury in Round 1 of the LV= competition.
The rest of the Falcons’ pack includes three internationals, with Josh Furno (Italy) and Scott MacLeod (Scotland) appearing in the second-row while Eric Fry (USA) lines up alongside former LV= Cup winner Rob Hawkins and Alex Rogers in the front-row.
Elsewhere on the field Jamie Helleur makes a welcome return to the starting line-up at outside centre alongside his fellow Samoan international Andy Tuilagi. On the wings are Danny Barnes and Lee Smith, with Alex Tait moving back into the full-back position.
Last week’s scrum-half Ruki Tipuna holds onto the number nine shirt, partnered for this game by Rory Clegg at fly-half.
Newcastle: 15 Alex Tait, 14 Lee Smith, 13 Jamie Helleur, 12 Anitelea Tuilagi, 11 Danny Barnes, 10 Rory Clegg, 9 Ruki Tipuna, 8 Uili Kolo’ofai, 7 Andy Saull (c), 6 Richard Mayhew, 5 Scott MacLeod, 4 Josh Furno, 3 Alex Rogers, 2 Rob Hawkins, 1 Eric Fry.
Replacements: 16 Scott Lawson, 17 Rob Vickers, 18 Mark Irving, 19 Sean Robinson, 20 Ally Hogg, 21 Mike Blair, 22 Phil Godman, 23 Simon Hammersley.
Sale: 15 Luke McLean, 14 Tom Brady, 13 Andy Forsyth, 12 Sam Bedlow, 11 Phil Mackenzie, 10 Joe Ford, 9 Nathan Fowles, 8 Viliami Fihaki, 7 TJ Ioane, 6 Mark Easter, 5 George Nott, 4 Andrei Ostrikov, 3 Ciaran Parker, 2 Tommy Taylor, 1 Alberto de Marchi.
Replacements: 16 Shalva Mamukashvili, 17 Maxim Cobilas, 18 James Flynn, 19 Nathan Hines, 20 Andy Hughes, 21 Will Cliff, 22 Nick Macleod, 23 Sam James.
Kick-off: 15:00 GMT
Venue: Kingston Park
Referee: Rhys Thomas (Wales)
Assistant referees: Robin Goodliffe (England), Roy Maybank (England)
Timekeeper: David Hudson (England)
Assessor: Gary Welsh (England)
Dragons vs Exeter Chiefs
Dragons flanker Nick Crosswell will make his first appearance for the Men of Gwent on Sunday against Exeter Chiefs.
Crosswell recently signed a contract with the Dragons after leaving New Zealand province the Manawatu Turbos.
The 28-year-old has been training with the Welsh region since his arrival in Wales and is one of twelve changes made to the team that faced Stade Francais in the European Rugby Challenge Cup last weekend.
The back-three has one change made to it as full-back Geraint Rhys Jones and wing Tom Prydie are joined by Ashton Hewitt. The centre partnership consists of premiership star Carl Meyer, who joins the Dragons from Ebbw Vale RFC and Dragons stalwart Ashley Smith who takes on the role of skipper.
Fly-half Dorian Jones retains his place from last weekend and is joined in the half-backs by scrum-half Richie Rees.
The front-row sees props Lloyd Fairbrother and Dan Way start alongside hooker Hugh Gustafson. The second-row has also changed as young guns Matthew Screech and Cory Hill take up the position of lock forwards. The back-row is a mixture of youth and experience as flankers Nick Crosswell and James Benjamin are named to play alongside number eight Andy Powell.
Meanwhile, former Dragons Ceri Sweeney and Adam Hughes both start for Exeter in a back division which also contains the likes of Byron McGuigan, Tom James, Fetu’u Vainikolo, Ian Whitten and the long-serving Haydn Thomas.
Up front, the likes of Brett Sturgess, Elvis Taione and Tom Johnson provide further big-game experience, whilst there is the opportunity for a number of the club’s highly-rated youngsters to showcase their worth from the off.
“It’s going to be great to see a group of players who have not had as much game time as they would like play against Newport and it will be great to see guys like Fetu’u Vainikolo, Tom James, Ceri Sweeney and Byron McGuigan running around and getting an opportunity to get the ball in their hands and play,” said head coach Rob Baxter.”At the same time it will also be great to see some of the younger guys we think are improving and coming through – guys like Sam Simmonds, Max Bodilly and Stu Townsend – and this is a great competition for them.”
Dragons: 15 Geraint Rhys Jones, 14 Tom Prydie, 13 Carl Meyer, 12 Ashley Smith (c), 11 Ashton Hewitt, 10 Dorian Jones, 9 Richie Rees, 8 Andy Powell, 7 James Benjamin, 6 Nick Crosswell, 5 Cory Hill, 4 Matthew Screech, 3 Dan Way, 2 Hugh Gustafson, 1 Lloyd Fairbrother.
Replacements: 16 Rhys Buckley, 17 Owen Evans, 18 David Young, 19 Joe Davies, 20 Scott Matthews, 21 Luc Jones, 22 Angus O’Brien, 23 Jack Dixon.
Exeter: 15 Byron McGuigan, 14 Fetu’u Vainikolo, 13 Ian Whitten, 12 Adam Hughes, 11 Tom James, 10 Ceri Sweeney (c), 9 Haydn Thomas, 8 Sam Skinner, 7 Sam Simmonds, 6 Tom Johnson, 5 Will Carrick-Smith, 4 Jerry Sexton, 3 Tomas Francis, 2 Elvis Taione, 1 Brett Sturgess.
Replacements: 16 Greg Bateman, 17 Jake Woolmore, 18 Jack Stanley, 19 Ed Holmes, 20 Joel Conlon, 21 Stuart Townsend, 22 Laurence May, 23 Max Bodilly.
Kick-off: 14:30 GMT
Venue: Rodney Parade
Referee: Greg Macdonald (England)
Assistant referees: Craig Evans (Wales), Sean Brickell (Wales)
Timekeeper: Julian Smith (Wales)
London Wasps vs Cardiff Blues
Wasps have named their team to take on Cardiff Blues at the Ricoh Arena this Sunday, with plenty of first-team players either unavailable or rested.
Ed Jackson captains the squad, which contains a strong blend of youth and experience. Will Helu, Sailosi Tagicakibau and Charlie Davies all return to the backline after ankle, hamstring and calf injuries respectively. Italian international Andrea Masi builds game time in the centre, before joining the national squad for the Six Nations.
Glyn Hughes makes his first start for Wasps, at fly-half, with Alex Lozowski moving to full-back.
In the pack, Thomas Young has recovered from an ankle injury to take his place in the back-row, alongside Guy Thompson and Ed Jackson.
On the bench, Will Taylor is set to make his first senior squad appearance in almost a year, after a bicep injury lay-off, while Wasps Academy scrum-half James Small-Edwards and back-row Oskar Hirskyj-Douglas are poised to make their senior squad debuts.
Meanwhile, James Sheekey and Seb Davies will all make their debuts for Cardiff Blues as the region returns to LV= Cup action.
The pair are handed first-ever senior outings for the Blues, in a team captained by Ellis Jenkins, that contains a mix of youth and experience.
Wales international Craig Mitchell packs down with Rhys Williams and Tom Davies up front while lock Miles Normandale joins forces with Seb Davies in the second-row.
Newcomer James Sheekey joins Macauley Cook and skipper Jenkins in the back-row.
Centre Adam Thomas is paired with Garyn Smith, who made his debut earlier in the season, in midfield.
Argentine, Lucas Amorosino is on the wing with Richard Smith and Joaquin Tuculet completing the back-three. The half-back pairing is Rhys Patchell and Lewis Jones.
The bench contains another potential debut in flanker, Jordan Viggers who is in line for a first team bow if he comes on at the Ricoh Arena.
Wasps: 15 Alex Lozowski, 14 Will Helu, 13 Andrea Masi, 12 Sailosi Tagicakibau, 11 Josh Bassett, 10 Glyn Hughes, 9 Charlie Davies, 8 Guy Thompson, 7 Thomas Young, 6 Ed Jackson (c), 5 James Cannon, 4 Will Rowlands, 3 Phil Swainston, 2 Tom Lindsay, 1 John Yapp.
Replacements: 16 Edd Shervington, 17 Alex Lundberg, 18 Will Taylor, 19 Buster Lawrence, 20 Oskar Hirskyj-Douglas, 21 James Small-Edwards, 22 Tom Howe, 23 Piers O’Conor.
Cardiff Blues: 15 Joaquin Tuculet, 14 Richard Smith, 13 Garyn Smith, 12 Adam Thomas, 11 Lucas Amorosino, 10 Rhys Patchell, 9 Lewis Jones, 8 James Sheekey, 7 Ellis Jenkins (c), 6 Macauley Cook, 5 Seb Davies, 4 Miles Normandale, 3 Craig Mitchell, 2 Rhys Williams, 1 Thomas Davies.
Replacements: 16 Liam Belcher, 17 Brad Thyer, 18 Dillon Lewis, 19 Ben Roach, 20 Jordan Viggers, 21 Tomos Williams, 22 Simon Humberstone, 23 Geraint Walsh.
Kick-off: 14:00 GMT
Venue: Ricoh Arena
Referee: Thomas Foley (England)
Assistant referees: Andy Watson (England), Philip Watters (England)
Timekeeper: Anthony Turner (England)
Assessor: Martin Fox (England)/Clive Leeke (England)