Danny Care gets the nod for Harlequins against Saints

David Skippers

There’s three games scheduled in the Premiership on Sunday with the action starting at the Twickenham Stoop between Harlequins and Northampton Saints.

Harlequins v Northampton Saints

Head of rugby, Paul Gustard, has made 13 changes to his Harlequins’ starting line-up for their clash with Northampton Saints at the Stoop.

International duo Danny Care and Paul Lasike return to the XV for the first time this season, both having made significant impact during their appearances from the bench for Quins since rugby returned, with Care returning from injury against Worcester Warriors earlier this week.

Openside flanker Will Evans is the only change to the team that faced Saracens at Allianz Park during Round 15, with club captain Chris Robshaw shifting to the six jersey as back-row James Chisholm looks to make an impact as one of the side’s replacements; who have made notable impacts for Gustard’s side over recent weeks.

Meanwhile, Northampton Saints have made 15 changes to their starting XV for the second match running, with Lewis Ludlam set to lead out the side against Harlequins.

The men in Black, Green and Gold were beaten on home soil by Bath on Wednesday, but enjoyed a resounding win over London Irish at Sunday’s venue – Twickenham Stoop – last weekend, and Saints have lost just one of their last five league meetings against the Londoners.

A special milestone also beckons for Northampton wing Taqele Naiyaravoro; the Australia international will make his 50th appearance in Black, Green and Gold should he come off the bench.

Flanker Ludlam skippers the side with Jamie Gibson and number eight Shaun Adendorff also in the back-row, with Alex Moon and last weekend’s man-of-the-match Nick Isiekwe packing down in the engine room for Saints.

A powerful, home-grown front row of Danny Hobbs-Awoyemi, Mikey Haywood, and Ehren Painter round off the pack, with young English duo James Grayson and Alex Mitchell stepping into the half-back berths for Northampton.

Scotland international Rory Hutchinson and All Black Matt Proctor line up together in the centres, with plenty of pace out wide in Ryan Olowofela and Tom Collins and England’s George Furbank behind them at fullback.

There’s plenty of firepower to come off the bench for Boyd’s side too – the likes of Naiyaravoro, Teimana Harrison, Fraser Dingwall, and Dave Ribbans will hope to make an impact if they enter the action.

Form: Harlequins only victory in the last four rounds of Gallagher Premiership Rugby was 16-10 at home to Sale on 14 August. The Londoners have been defeated at home just once in Gallagher Premiership Rugby since November: 15-29 to their now co-tenants London Irish in February. Northampton Saints’ astonishing run continues with the visiting team now winning their last five encounters. The Saints only reversal in their last five away games in all competitions was to Exeter Chiefs in Round 11 of Gallagher Premiership Rugby. The Saints have lost only one of their last five fixtures with Harlequins in Premiership Rugby and also just two of the last thirteen meetings. Northampton visit Twickenham Stoop for the second weekend in succession having beaten London Irish there last Saturday. The Saints’ only defeat at the venue in the last five visits was 9-20 to Harlequins in October 2016.

The teams:

Harlequins: 15 Mike Brown, 14 Chris Ashton, 13 Joe Marchant, 12 Paul Lasike, 11 Nathan Earle, 10 Marcus Smith, 9 Danny Care, 8 Alex Dombrandt, 7 Will Evans, 6 Chris Robshaw (c), 5 Matt Symons, 4 Stephan Lewies, 3 Simon Kerrod, 2 Scott Baldwin, 1 Joe Marler
Replacements: 16 Joe Gray, 17 Santiago Garcia Botta, 18 Will Collier, 19 Dino Lamb, 20 James Chisholm, 21 Scott Steele, 22 James Lang, 23 Aaron Morris

Northampton Saints: 15 George Furbank, 14 Ryan Olowofela, 13 Matt Proctor, 12 Rory Hutchinson, 11 Tom Collins, 10 James Grayson, 9 Alex Mitchell, 8 Shaun Adendorff, 7 Lewis Ludlam (c), 6 Jamie Gibson, 5 Nick Isiekwe, 4 Alex Moon, 3 Ehren Painter, 2 Mikey Haywood, 1 Danny Hobbs-Awoyemi
Replacements: 16 Reece Marshall, 17 Nick Auterac, 18 Paul Hill, 19 Dave Ribbans, 20 Teimana Harrison, 21 Henry Taylor, 22 Fraser Dingwall, 23 Taqele Naiyaravoro

Venue: Twickenham Stoop
Kick-off: 14:00 BST
Referee: Craig Maxwell-Keys
Assistant Referees: Simon Harding, Dean Richards
TMO: David Grashoff

Exeter Chiefs v Worcester Warriors

The Chiefs have changed their complete starting line-up for Sunday’s clash as they enter on the back of a fine victory at Bristol Bears.

The biggest news is the introduction of England and British & Irish Lions wing Jack Nowell for the first time since restart. He is joined in a stellar back-line, which also includes the likes of Stuart Hogg, Alex Cuthbert, Henry Slade and skipper Joe Simmonds.

Up front, it’s an all-England front-row of Ben Moon, Luke Cowan-Dickie and Harry Williams, while behind recent recruit Jonny Gray gets another home start alongside Jonny Hill in the Exeter engine room. The pack is completed with the all-action trio of Dave Ewers, Jacques Vermeulen and Sam Simmonds.

On the bench, Bristol match winner Billy Keast is included, as are fellow youngsters Jack Innard, Marcus Street, Richard Capstick and Harvey Skinner.

Meanwhile, Worcester back-row Matt Cox is set to join the 100 Club in Sunday’s Premiership match.

Cox has been named as a one of six forwards among the replacements and will bring up a century of appearances for the Warriors, split by a stint at Gloucester, if he is used.

The 32-year-old has not played in the Premiership for almost 18 months and has made just three appearances – all in the European Challenge Cup – this season due to complications that followed a blood disorder.

He joined Warriors from Woodrush as a 15-year-old and made a try-scoring debut against Wasps in April 2008. Cox represented England at every age group from U18s to U20s as well as England Sevens.

Only 25 players have made 100 appearances for Warriors in the professional era with GJ van Velze – who will start at Exeter – the most recent of them against Wasps in January.

Warriors have named a completely different starting XV to the one that beat Harlequins comprehensively at Sixways on Wednesday which includes wing Alex Hearle who will make his Premiership debut.

Hearle, who recently graduated to the senior squad from the Three Pears Warriors Academy, began the season brightly but suffered a foot injury against Exeter in the Premiership Rugby Cup in October and has not played since.

Scrum-half Michael Heaney will make his first appearance since the season resumed following the Coronavirus lockdown with Will Butler, the assistant club captain again leading the side.

Back-row forward Tom Dodd starts having recovered from the head injury he sustained at Wasps last week.

The front-row of Callum Black, Beck Cutting and Richard Palframan, lock Andrew Kitchener, flanker Sam Lewis, fly-half Billy Searle and centre Ashley Beck all came off the bench against Harlequins.

Form: Exeter Chiefs’ thrilling last gasp victory at Bristol on Tuesday preserved their Gallagher Premiership Rugby winning run which now stands at four games. The Chiefs have lost just twice at Sandy Park in Premiership Rugby this season, both with a three-point losing margin, to Bristol in Round 4 and to Sale Sharks in Round 9. Worcester Warriors’ unwanted eight-game losing run in Gallagher Premiership Rugby ended with their 29-14 victory over Harlequins at Sixways on Wednesday. That was the Warriors first maximum point success in Premiership Rugby this campaign. Worcester have won just once on the road in Gallagher Premiership Rugby this season, at Harlequins in Round 4. Exeter have lost just once to Worcester in Premiership Rugby and that by a solitary point at Sandy Park in February 2018.

The teams:

Exeter Chiefs: 15 Stuart Hogg, 14 Jack Nowell, 13 Henry Slade, 12 Ian Whitten, 11 Alex Cuthbert, 10 Joe Simmonds (c), 9 Jack Maunder, 8 Sam Simmonds, 7 Jacques Vermeulen, 6 Dave Ewers, 5 Jonny Hill, 4 Jonny Gray, 3 Harry Williams, 2 Luke Cowan-Dickie, 1 Ben Moon
Replacements: 16 Jack Innard, 17 Billy Keast, 18 Marcus Street, 19 Will Witty, 20 Richard Capstick, 21 Sam Hidalgo-Clyne, 22 Harvey Skinner, 23 Tom Hendrickson

Worcester Warriors: 15 Scott van Breda, 14 Nick David, 13 Ashley Beck, 12 Will Butler (c), 11 Alex Hearle, 10 Billy Searle, 9 Michael Heaney, 8 GJ van Velze, 7 Sam Lewis, 6 Tom Dodd, 5 Andrew Kitchener, 4 James Scott, 3 Richard Palframan, 2 Beck Cutting, 1 Callum Black
Replacements: 16 Isaac Miller, 17 Lewis Holsey, 18 Joe Morris, 19 Justin Clegg, 20 Caleb Montgomery, 21 Matt Cox, 22 Jono Kitto, 23 Oli Morris

Venue: Sandy Park
Kick-off: 15:00 BST
Referee: Adam Leal
Assistant Referees: Jonathan Healy, Christophe Ridley
TMO: David Rose

Gloucester v Leicester Tigers

It’s wholesale changes for Gloucester, as George Skivington rotates his squad once more after the short turnaround from Wednesday at Allianz Park for Sunday’s fixture with Leicester Tigers.

Lewis Ludlow returns to skipper the side, with 15 changes to the starting line-up, including Jason Woodward coming into the full-back berth.

Matt Garvey will make his second start for the Cherry & Whites in the second-row alongside Ed Slater, behind Val Rapava-Ruskin, Jack Singleton and Fraser Balmain in the front-row.

On the bench, Jordy Reid looks set to make his second appearance for the club following his debut on Wednesday, and youngster, Stephen Varney continues in the matchday squad after scoring three tries in three games so far.

Meanwhile, Leicester have made 17 changes to the matchday squad that defeated London Irish in midweek, including a new-look starting team for this fixture.

Thom Smith will captain the side from openside flanker, with the 20-year-old partnering Jordan Coghlan and debutant Ollie Chessum in the back-row.

In the second-row, Tomás Lavanini and Blake Enever return after also playing together against Bath in Round 15.

Enever, in just his second Tigers appearance, has been named as one of two vice-captains alongside full-back George Worth.

Ryan Bower makes his first starting appearance for the club in almost a decade, after returning to Tigers last month, and is joined by fellow Tigers Academy graduates Charlie Clare and Joe Heyes in the front-row.

Jack van Poortvliet and Zack Henry combine in a new-look half-back pairing, with Tom Hardwick and Guy Porter combining for the first time in midfield.

Jordan Olowofela and Harry Potter are the wings, with Worth returning to full-back after starting at centre against Bath a week ago.

Facundo Gigena is in line for his first appearance in almost six months after returning to Leicester earlier this month from Argentina and is joined by Jake Kerr and Nephi Leatigaga as front-row cover on the bench.

Cameron Henderson is also included among the replacements alongside Jordan Taufua, Ben Youngs and George Ford who back-up from Wednesday’s win.

Ireland U20s cap Dan Kelly is in line for his debut after joining the club from Loughborough Students in June.

Form: Gloucester Rugby’s only victory in their last nine first team matches was 44-15 at Worcester on 15 August. The Cherry & Whites have lost their last three Gallagher Premiership Rugby matches at Kingsholm but have only lost four league games in a row at the famous old venue in the same season during the 1995/96 League One campaign. Leicester Tigers’ three-game losing run ended with their victory over London Irish on Wednesday. The Tigers are yet to win away from home this season although they did draw 30-all with Harlequins at Twickenham Stadium in Round 7. Historically things could not be more even between the two rivals with each side claiming 108 victories and 8 fixtures drawn in the 224 previous meetings since 1891. The Tigers have lost on their last two visits to Kingsholm with their most recent victory there being 38-31 in the opening round of the 2016/17 Premiership Rugby campaign.

The teams:

Gloucester: 15 Jason Woodward, 14 Ollie Thorley, 13 Chris Harris, 12 Billy Twelvetrees, 11 Jonny May, 10 Danny Cipriani, 9 Joe Simpson, 8 Jake Polledri, 7 Lewis Ludlow (c), 6 Ruan Ackermann, 5 Matt Garvey, 4 Ed Slater, 3 Fraser Balmain, 2 Jack Singleton, 1 Val Rapava-Ruskin
Replacements: 16 Franco Marais, 17 Corne Fourie, 18 Jack Stanley, 19 Jordy Reid, 20 Jack Clement, 21 Stephen Varney, 22 Tom Seabrook, 23 Lloyd Evans

Leicester Tigers: 15 George Worth, 14 Harry Potter, 13 Guy Porter, 12 Tom Hardwick, 11 Jordan Olowofela, 10 Zack Henry, 9 Jack Van Poortvliet, 8 Jordan Coghlan, 7 Thom Smith (c), 6 Ollie Chessum, 5 Blake Enever, 4 Tomás Lavanini, 3 Joe Heyes, 2 Charlie Clare, 1 Ryan Bower
Replacements: 16 Jake Kerr, 17 Facundo Gigena, 18 Nephi Leatigaga, 19 Cameron Henderson, 20 Jordan Taufua, 21 Ben Youngs, 22 George Ford, 23 Dan Kelly

Venue: Kingsholm
Kick-off: 16:30 BST
Referee: Matthew Carley
Assistant Referees: Jack Makepeace, Paul Dix
TMO: Claire Hodnett