Jack Willis back for Wasps after nine months out

Date published: February 22 2019

There’s four Premiership games scheduled for Saturday, including Wasps against Sale Sharks, with one match concluding the weekend on Sunday.

Saturday

Harlequins vs Bristol Bears

There are four changes to the Harlequins starting XV that beat Worcester Warriors at home last week to maintain third place in the competition.

Elia Elia comes in for Max Crumpton at hooker, while in the second-row Ben Glynn replaces Matt Symons, who misses out through sickness.

In the backs Ross Chisholm starts on the wing in place of Gabriel Ibitoye who sustained a hamstring injury in last week’s fixture. Charlie Mulchrone starts at nine ahead of Danny Care who also misses out with injury.

Among the replacements, centre Francis Saili returns to the side for the first time since the victory over Newcastle Falcons in Round 12. Dave Lewis provides cover at scrum-half and, with Glynn in the starting XV, George Merrick comes in alongside Phil Swainston.

Meanwhile, Bristol head coach Pat Lam makes a total of six changes from the side that suffered defeat to Wasps.

Charles Piutau is named at full-back with Luke Daniels switching to the wing, while Callum Sheedy also earns a start.

In the pack, Ospreys loanee Sam Parry will make his competitive debut, while Jake Woolmore also comes into the front-row. Joe Batley makes his first Premiership start in a Bristol jersey.

Mat Protheroe is listed among the replacements following his man of the match display for Hartpury last weekend in the Championship.

The teams:

Harlequins: 15 Mike Brown, 14 Nathan Earle, 13 Joe Marchant, 12 Ben Tapuai, 11 Ross Chisholm, 10 Marcus Smith, 9 Charlie Mulchrone, 8 Alex Dombrandt, 7 Chris Robshaw (cc), 6 Jack Clifford, 5 James Horwill (cc), 4 Ben Glynn, 3 Will Collier, 2 Elia Elia, 1 Joe Marler
Replacements: 16 Dave Ward, 17 Lewis Boyce, 18 Phil Swainston, 19 George Merrick, 20 James Chisholm, 21 Dave Lewis, 22 James Lang, 23 Francis Saili

Bristol Bears: 15 Charles Piutau, 14 Luke Daniels, 13 Piers O’Conor, 12 Siale Piutau (cc), 11 Alapati Leiua, 10 Callum Sheedy, 9 Harry Randall, 8 Jordan Crane (cc), 7 George Smith, 6 Steve Luatua, 5 Chris Vui, 4 Joe Batley, 3 John Afoa, 2 Sam Parry, 1 Jake Woolmore
Replacements: 16 Harry Thacker, 17 Yann Thomas, 18 Lewis Thiede, 19 Nick Haining, 20 Dan Thomas, 21 Andy Uren, 22 Ian Madigan, 23 Mat Protheroe

Venue: Twickenham Stoop
Kick-off: 14:00 GMT
Referee: Tom Foley
Assistant referees: Hamish Smales, Wayne Falla
Television match official: Stuart Terheege

Wasps vs Sale Sharks

Wasps back-row Jack Willis is set to make a return to action as he is named among the replacements for Saturday’s Premiership clash with Sale Sharks.

The 22-year-old Academy product has spent the last nine months on the sidelines with a knee injury but is restored to the matchday 23, as Wasps search for a third consecutive league victory in their hunt for the play-offs after wins over Northampton Saints and then Bristol Bears last weekend.

Winger Marcus Watson returns to the side on the right flank in place of Michele Campagnaro, who is on international duty with Italy, while Ben Morris deputises at openside flanker for Thomas Young who misses out through illness.

Lima Sopoaga is back at fly-half after Billy Searle is ruled out with a significant ankle injury and he partners Joe Simpson in the half-back combination. The scrum-half steps in for his 249th Wasps appearance in the absence of Dan Robson, who’s named on the bench for England for their Six Nations clash in Wales.

Coventry RFC’s Biyi Alo comes in as replacement tighthead and could make his Wasps debut in place of Simon McIntyre, who took a knock in training and misses out with concussion.

Lock Charlie Matthews, scrum-half Craig Hampson and centre Michael Le Bourgeois also come into the replacements.

Meanwhile, Sale boss Steve Diamond has made two personnel changes to his starting XV with Valery Morozov set to make his first start in the Premiership, entering the side in the place of Ross Harrison who picked up a calf strain last week.

The Russian international has made one appearance for the Sharks since joining from Enisei-STM in January, coming off the bench as a substitute in the club’s final Premiership Rugby Cup match against Newcastle Falcons on February 3.

AJ MacGinty is unavailable due to an ankle injury, so Sam James moves to fly-half with younger brother Luke taking his place at full-back.

Arron Reed and Cameron Redpath return from the England U20 camp and are included as replacements for this weekend’s match.

The teams:

Wasps: 15 Willie le Roux, 14 Marcus Watson, 13 Juan de Jongh, 12 Gaby Lovobalavu, 11 Josh Bassett, 10 Lima Sopoaga, 9 Joe Simpson, 8 Nizaam Carr, 7 Ben Morris, 6 Ashley Johnson (c), 5 James Gaskell, 4 Will Rowlands, 3 Will Stuart, 2 Tom Cruse, 1 Zurabi Zhvania
Replacements: 16 Tommy Taylor, 17 Ben Harris, 18 Biyi Alo, 19 Charlie Matthews, 20 Jack Willis, 21 Craig Hampson, 22 Rob Miller, 23 Michael Le Bourgeois

Sale Sharks: 15 Luke James, 14 Denny Solomona, 13 James O’Connor, 12 Rohan Janse van Rensburg, 11 Byron McGuigan, 10 Sam James, 9 Faf de Klerk, 8 Josh Beaumont, 7 Ben Curry, 6 Jono Ross (c), 5 James Phillips, 3 WillGriff John, 2 Rob Webber, 1 Valery Morozov
Replacements: 16 Curtis Langdon, 17 Tom Bristow, 18 Joe Jones, 19 Andrei Ostrikov, 20 Cameron Neild, 21 Will Cliff, 22 Cameron Redpath, 23 Arron Reed

Venue: Ricoh Arena
Kick-off: 14:00 GMT
Referee: Andrew Jackson
Assistant referees: Matthew O’Grady, Paul Dix
Television match official: David Grashoff

Exeter Chiefs vs Newcastle Falcons

Exeter Chiefs boss Rob Baxter has, by and large, stuck with the majority of those who started last week’s game against Gloucester.

In the pack, Australia international Greg Holmes replaces Tomas Francis, who will start for Wales, while Don Armand returns in the back-row in place of Sean Lonsdale.

Behind the scrum, Gareth Steenson gets the nod at fly-half, Ollie Devoto returns in the centre alongside Ian Whitten, while there is a new-look back three made up of returning wingers Olly Woodburn and Alex Cuthbert with Santiago Cordero switching to full-back.

Meanwhile, Johnny Williams returns for Newcastle on Saturday as they make the Premiership trip south.

The centre is back for the game at Sandy Park after recovering from the knee injury which has kept him out for the past two months.

Elsewhere, George McGuigan is back at hooker, while a re-jigged back-row sees John Hardie in at openside flanker after being released by Scotland during the week.

Callum Chick slots in at number eight, with the only other change seeing the inclusion of Tonga captain Sonatane Takulua at scrum-half for a Newcastle side going out in search of their first ever victory at Sandy Park.

The teams:

Exeter Chiefs: 15 Santiago Cordero, 14 Alex Cuthbert, 13 Ian Whitten, 12 Ollie Devoto, 11 Olly Woodburn, 10 Gareth Steenson, 9 Nic White, 8 Matt Kvesic, 7 Don Armand, 6 Dave Ewers, 5 Jonny Hill, 4 Dave Dennis, 3 Greg Holmes, 2 Jack Yeandle (c), 1 Alec Hepburn
Replacements: 16 Jack Innard, 17 Billy Keast, 18 Marcus Street, 19 Mitch Lees, 20 Sean Lonsdale, 21 Jack Maunder, 22 Joe Simmonds, 23 Sam Hill

Newcastle Falcons: 15 Simon Hammersley, 14 Zach Kibirige, 13 Chris Harris, 12 Johnny Williams, 11 Sinoti Sinoti, 10 Toby Flood, 9 Sonatane Takulua, 8 Callum Chick, 7 John Hardie, 6 Will Welch (c), 5 Andrew Davidson, 4 Calum Green, 3 David Wilson, 2 George McGuigan, 1 Sam Lockwood
Replacements: 16 Santiago Socino, 17 Logovi’i Mulipola, 18 Jack Payne, 19 Will Witty, 20 Nemani Nagusa, 21 Sam Stuart, 22 Tim Swiel, 23 Ben Stevenson

Venue: Sandy Park
Kick-off: 14:30 GMT
Referee: Luke Pearce
Assistant referees: Anthony Woodthorpe, Philip Watters
Television match official: Geoffrey Warren

Northampton Saints vs Bath

James Haskell, David Ribbans and Alex Waller are among seven changes to Northampton Saints’ starting XV this weekend as the side take on Bath.

The men in Black, Green and Gold will lock horns with the West Country outfit on home soil this Saturday, having won their last six home matches in all competitions.

Chris Boyd’s side have lost just once in the Premiership at Franklin’s Gardens since September, and are coming off the back of their second-largest victory in the league’s history after running in nine tries last time out against Sale Sharks.

Club captain Waller returns to the starting line-up and leads the side within a completely new-look front row, with Reece Marshall and Paul Hill also selected by Boyd from the outset.

After recovering from illness, Ribbans is recalled in the engine room alongside Fiji’s Api Ratuniyarawa and, while Lewis Ludlam and Tom Wood keep their places in Northampton’s back-row, flanker Haskell comes in to start his first game since October.

Despite ringing the changes in the pack, Boyd has stuck with largely the same backline that put Sale to the sword last week.

George Furbank continues at full-back while Ahsee Tuala and Taqele Naiyaravoro complete the back three, with Rory Hutchinson and Piers Francis in the midfield together for the second week running.

But there are changes in the half-back axis with scrum-half Alex Mitchell starting his first league match of the season, and outside him fly-half James Grayson returns after winning the Premiership Rugby Cup’s Breakthrough Player of the Season award earlier this week.

For Bath, Dave Attwood and Jonathan Joseph are set to mark milestone appearances against Northampton on Saturday.

Attwood will mark his 150th appearance for the club, while Joseph will bring up a century of appearances in the Blue, Black and White.

Nathan Catt and Henry Thomas line-up either side of Tom Dunn in the front-row. Attwood continues his second-row partnership with co-captain Luke Charteris, while the back-row remains unchanged from last Saturday’s bonus-point victory over Newcastle Falcons. Elliott Stooke remains in the number six jersey, with Francois Louw and Zach Mercer completing the pack.

Co-captain Will Chudley and Rhys Priestland link-up once again in the half-back pairing, while Jackson Willison returns to the starting line-up at inside centre. Willison is joined by Joseph in the midfield, as Bath face an in-form Northampton side.

Ruaridh McConnochie and Cooper Vuna come in on the wings, while Darren Atkins starts at full-back for the trip to Franklin’s Gardens.

The teams:

Northampton Saints: 15 George Furbank, 14 Ahsee Tuala, 13 Rory Hutchinson, 12 Piers Francis, 11 Taqele Naiyaravoro, 10 James Grayson, 9 Alex Mitchell, 8 Tom Wood, 7 Lewis Ludlam, 6 James Haskell, 5 David Ribbans, 4 Api Ratuniyarawa, 3 Paul Hill, 2 Reece Marshall, 1 Alex Waller (c)
Replacements: 16 James Fish, 17 Francois van Wyk, 18 Ben Franks, 19 Alex Moon, 20 Jamie Gibson, 21 Cobus Reinach, 22 Luther Burrell, 23 Ken Pisi

Bath: 15 Darren Atkins, 14 Ruaridh McConnochie, 13 Jonathan Joseph, 12 Jackson Willison, 11 Cooper Vuna, 10 Rhys Priestland, 9 Will Chudley (cc), 8 Zach Mercer, 7 Francois Louw, 6 Elliott Stooke, 5 Luke Charteris (cc), 4 Dave Attwood, 3 Henry Thomas, 2 Tom Dunn, 1 Nathan Catt
Replacements: 16 Jack Walker, 17 Jacques van Rooyen, 18 Max Lahiff, 19 Charlie Ewels, 20 Paul Grant, 21 Max Green, 22 Freddie Burns, 23 Max Clark

Venue: Franklin’s Gardens
Kick-off: 14:45 GMT
Referee: Ian Tempest
Assistant referees: Robert Warburton, Simon McConnell
Television match official: Nigel Carrick, Trevor Fisher

Sunday

Worcester vs Leicester

England flanker Ted Hill will start for Warriors in Sunday’s Premiership match against Leicester Tigers at Sixways.

Hill, who was capped against Japan at Twickenham in November, captained England U20s to victory over France at Exeter two weeks ago.

But Hill and centre Ollie Lawrence, who both impressed when they came off the bench at Harlequins last week, have both been recalled by Warriors for their first home since Premiership match since they beat Bath in the 19th minute of added time on January 5.

Hill takes the place of GJ van Velze, who has been ruled out by a forearm injury, in a rejigged back-row. Marco Mama, who signed a one-year contract extension earlier this week, switches to number eight with Ryan Mills taking over as captain.

Fly-half Duncan Weir will again be on club duty having spent two days training with Scotland earlier in the week.

Wing Tom Howe, who scored Warriors’ fifth try at Harlequins after he came on as a replacement, will start his first Premiership match of the season. Howe has scored eight tries in as many first team matches this season.

The other change is at loosehead prop where Ethan Waller will also make his first Premiership start of the season.

Lawrence has been named as a replacement alongside lock Pierce Phillips, who has recovered from a foot injury, and fly-half Jono Lance who is set for his first appearance since he suffered a stress fracture of the back in November.

Meanwhile, Leicester include Dan Cole and Jonah Holmes in the squad to face Worcester in the Premiership this weekend after being released from international duty.

Cole trained with the England squad earlier this week while Holmes has been involved in his first Six Nations this season with Wales.

Tigers also welcome back Tatafu Polota-Nau, Will Spencer, Guy Thompson and Harry Simmons after injury and all four are included among the replacements for the Round 14 trip to Sixways.

Facundo Gigena starts alongside Cole and club captain Tom Youngs in the front-row and there is a shuffle in the back-row where Mike Fitzgerald and Mike Williams start on either side of Sione Kalamafoni.

The only change in the backline following last week’s defeat at Saracens sees the return of Jordan Olowofela on the wing with Tom Varndell stepping down.

Greg Bateman and Brendon O’Connor are ruled out by injury after playing against Saracens, while Jonny May, Manu Tuilagi, Ben Youngs, George Ford and Ellis Genge are on Six Nations duty with England.

The teams:

Worcester Warriors: 15 Chris Pennell, 14 Bryce Heem, 13 Francois Venter, 12 Ryan Mills (c), 11 Tom Howe, 10 Duncan Weir, 9 Francois Hougaard, 8 Marco Mama, 7 Sam Lewis, 6 Ted Hill, 5 Michael Fatialofa, 4 Anton Bresler, 3 Nick Schonert, 2 Jack Singleton, 1 Ethan Waller
Replacements: 16 Isaac Miller, 17 Callum Black, 18 Gareth Milasinovich, 19 Pierce Phillips, 20 Matt Cox, 21 Michael Heaney, 22 Jono Lance, 23 Ollie Lawrence

Leicester Tigers: 15 George Worth, 14 Jonah Holmes, 13 Gareth Owen, 12 Kyle Eastmond, 11 Jordan Olowofela, 10 Matt Toomua, 9 Ben White, 8 Sione Kalamafoni, 7 Mike Williams, 6 Mike Fitzgerald, 5 Graham Kitchener, 4 Harry Wells, 3 Dan Cole, 2 Tom Youngs (c), 1 Facundo Gigena
Replacements: 16 Tatafu Polota-Nau, 17 Campese Ma’afu, 18 Joe Heyes, 19 Will Spencer, 20 Guy Thompson, 21 Harry Simmons, 22 Tom Hardwick, 23 Sam Aspland-Robinson

Venue: Sixways
Kick-off: 13:00 GMT
Referee: Craig Maxwell-Keys
Assistant referees: Adam Leal, Jonathan Healy
Television match official: David Rose