Joe Launchbury hits 150 as Wasps face play-off rivals Bristol

Date published: September 11 2020

The Premiership continues on Sunday as five matches take place, including play-off battles between Wasps v Bristol Bears and Sale Sharks v Bath.

Wasps v Bristol Bears

Lee Blackett has named his side for Wasps’ Premiership Round 20 match with Bristol Bears at Ricoh Arena on Sunday.

Joe Launchbury will captain the side on his 150th Wasps appearance, while there are seven changes to the starting line-up that beat Leicester on Wednesday.

Star flanker Jack Willis is one of those to return and he is partnered in the back-row by Brad Shields and his younger brother Tom, who starts at eight.

Meanwhile, Niyi Adeolokun will make his competitive debut in a Bristol jersey when Pat Lam’s men face Wasps in a top four battle.

The winger is one of 12 changes to the side that secured maximum points in the Round 19 victory over Northampton Saints.

Director of rugby Lam includes nine Academy graduates in his matchday squad. In the backline, Chris Cook makes his first start for the club, while Jack Bates, Max Malins and Ioan Lloyd also earn call-ups.

In the pack, only Joe Joyce remains from Tuesday’s side as Bears include Academy back-rower James Dun at blindside, while Keiron Assiratti makes his first start since arriving on loan.

Scrum-half Tom Kessell is included amongst the replacements and could make his first outing since arriving on a short-term agreement, while Harry Ascherl could earn his Premiership debut off the bench.

Form: Wasps have lost just one of their last nine Premiership Rugby encounters: 11-20 at home to Sale in Round 16, that defeat is Wasps’ only loss at the Ricoh Arena in any competition since January. Bristol Bears have lost only twice in any competition since early January, in successive Premiership fixtures in August against Exeter Chiefs and Sale Sharks. Bristol’s only defeat in their last six away games in all tournaments was 7-40 at Sale in Round 17. Wasps have won their last eight league encounters with Bristol and are unbeaten against them in their last 10 matches, whilst their only defeat against the Bears in Premiership Rugby since 2001 was 21-26 at Memorial Stadium in September 2006. Bristol’s only previous victory at Ricoh Arena was 30-19 in the Premiership Rugby Cup in November 2018.

The teams:

Wasps: 15 Matteo Minozzi, 14 Zach Kibirige, 13 Malakai Fekitoa, 12 Jimmy Gopperth, 11 Josh Bassett, 10 Jacob Umaga, 9 Dan Robson, 8 Tom Willis, 7 Jack Willis, 6 Brad Shields, 5 Will Rowlands, 4 Joe Launchbury (c), 3 Kieran Brookes, 2 Tom Cruse, 1 Ben Harris
Replacements: 16 Gabriel Oghre, 17 Tom West, 18 Jeff Toomaga-Allen, 19 James Gaskell, 20 Thomas Young, 21 Ben Vellacott, 22 Ryan Mills, 23 Marcus Watson

Bristol: 15 Ioan Lloyd, 14 Niyi Adeolokun, 13 Piers O’Conor, 12 Alapati Leiua, 11 Jack Bates, 10 Max Malins, 9 Chris Cook, 8 Jake Heenan (c), 7 Dan Thomas, 6 James Dun, 5 Joe Joyce, 4 Ed Holmes, 3 Keiron Assiratti, 2 Will Capon, 1 Yann Thomas
Replacements: 16 Bryan Byrne, 17 Peter McCabe, 18 John Afoa, 19 John Hawkins, 20 Mitch Eadie, 21 Tom Kessell, 22 Harry Ascherl, 23 Charlie Powell

Venue: Ricoh Arena
Kick-off: 12:30 BST (11:30 GMT)
Referee: Ian Tempest
Assistant referees: Christophe Ridley, Simon McConnell
TMO: Graham Hughes

Leicester Tigers v Northampton Saints

Leicester Tigers’ club captain Tom Youngs returns to the team to lead the side from hooker, joining international props Facundo Gigena and Dan Cole in the front-row.

Argentina international Tomás Lavanini partners Calum Green at lock, with Harry Wells, Luke Wallace and Hanro Liebenberg making up the back-row.

Ben Youngs, in his 250th appearance for Leicester Tigers, will partner Zack Henry as the half-backs.

Youngs, in what will also be the Tigers academy graduate’s 200th starting appearance for the club, is one of two vice-captains alongside front-rower Cole.

Scotland international centre Matt Scott partners Guy Porter in the midfield.

Freddie Steward retains his place at full-back from the squad’s last outing at Welford Road and is joined in the Leicester back three by Fiji international pairing of Nemani Nadolo and Kini Murimurivalu on the wings.

Murimurivalu, who joined the squad for training this week after completing a fortnight-long quarantine, will make his Leicester Tigers debut.

Ellis Genge, who captained the side away to Wasps in midweek, is among the replacements and is joined by Charlie Clare and Nephi Leatigaga as front-row cover, with Thom Smith and Jordan Taufua the other forwards. Ben White, Johnny McPhillips and Harry Potter supply backline cover.

For Northampton, director of rugby Chris Boyd has named his side to take on the Tigers as they look to bounce back.

The men in Black, Green and Gold are looking to turn their fortunes around after four straight Premiership defeats, and extend an historic run of form at the home of their bitter local rivals in the process.

Saints have won on their last three visits to Welford Road in all competitions; a sequence that has never been matched in 125 years of visiting the stadium.

Club co-captain Teimana Harrison leads out the Northampton line-up in Leicester, with Courtney Lawes and Lewis Ludlam completing an English back-row of international pedigree.

Francois van Wyk, James Fish and Owen Franks will pack down in the front-row for Saints, leaving Api Ratuniyarawa and David Ribbans in the engine room to round off the forwards.

Wales fly-half Dan Biggar pulls on Northampton’s number 10 jersey with Alex Mitchell starting inside him at scrum-half. Meanwhile, Rory Hutchinson and Matt Proctor are selected in the centres together again after impressing last weekend against Exeter.

That leaves a back three of Ahsee Tuala, Taqele Naiyaravoro and full-back George Furbank, with Emmanuel Iyogun set for his first-team debut in Black, Green and Gold if he comes off a bench which also contains the likes of Nick Isiekwe, Henry Taylor, Alex Moon and Fraser Dingwall.

Form: Leicester Tigers have slipped to three straight defeats since beating London Irish at Welford Road on 26 August. Tigers have lost just twice at Welford Road in 2020, both in the Premiership, to Bath in Round 15 and Sale in Round 18. Northampton Saints have lost their last four Premiership Rugby matches since beating London Irish at Twickenham Stoop on 22 August. The Saints have been defeated in their last two away games in the league but have not lost three in succession on their travels since March 2018. Northampton’s only reversal in their last five Premiership Rugby encounters with the Tigers was 15-23 at Twickenham Stadium in October 2018. The Saints have won on their last three visits to Welford Road in all competitions, a sequence that has never been matched in 125 years of visiting the stadium.

The teams:

Leicester: 15 Freddie Steward, 14 Kini Murimurivalu, 13 Guy Porter, 12 Matt Scott, 11 Nemani Nadolo, 10 Zack Henry, 9 Ben Youngs, 8 Hanro Liebenberg, 7 Luke Wallace, 6 Harry Wells, 5 Calum Green, 4 Tomás Lavanini, 3 Dan Cole, 2 Tom Youngs (c), 1 Facundo Gigena
Replacements: 16 Charlie Clare, 17 Ellis Genge, 18 Nephi Leatigaga, 19 Thom Smith, 20 Jordan Taufua, 21 Ben White, 22 Johnny McPhillips, 23 Harry Potter

Northampton: 15 George Furbank, 14 Ahsee Tuala, 13 Matt Proctor, 12 Rory Hutchinson, 11 Taqele Naiyaravoro, 10 Dan Biggar, 9 Alex Mitchell, 8 Teimana Harrison (c), 7 Lewis Ludlam, 6 Courtney Lawes, 5 Api Ratuniyarawa, 4 David Ribbans, 3 Owen Franks, 2 James Fish, 1 Francois van Wyk
Replacements: 16 Mike Haywood, 17 Emmanuel Iyogun, 18 Paul Hill, 19 Alex Moon, 20 Nick Isiekwe, 21 JJ Tonks, 22 Henry Taylor, 23 Fraser Dingwall

Venue: Welford Road
Kick-off: 14:00 BST (13:00 GMT)
Referee: Wayne Barnes
Assistant referees: Sara Cox, Paul Dix
TMO: Rowan Kitt

London Irish v Worcester Warriors

London Irish has announced their squad to take on Worcester Warriors in Round 20 of the Premiership on Sunday.

Harry Elrington and Lovejoy Chawatama join Argentina international Agustin Creevy in the front-row, with George Nott and Sebastian de Chaves combining in the second-row.

Matt Rogerson captains the side from blindside flanker and is joined in the back-row by Isaac Curtis-Harris and Albert Tuisue, the latter starting in the number eight jersey.

Nick Phipps and Paddy Jackson start at scrum-half and fly-half respectively, and Terrence Hepetema forms the centre partnership with Matt Williams.

James Stokes is named on one wing, with Ben Loader returning to the starting XV on the other. Tom Homer completes the line-up from full-back.

Meanwhile, Worcester Warriors have named a completely changed side for the game at the Stoop.

The only tweak from the side that started against Bristol last Friday is at centre where Wales international Ashley Beck comes into the XV to form a new pairing with Francois Venter.

Ollie Lawrence, who started against Bristol and played the full 80 minutes at Bath on Wednesday, is named among the replacements.

Tom Dodd, who impressed at number eight at Bath, is also named on the bench along with fellow back-row forward Sam Lewis.

Ted Hill, an unused replacement at Bath, will again captain Warriors in the absence of injured team captain Matt Moulds.

Loosehead prop Callum Black is closing in on a century of appearances and will make his 98th appearance if he comes off the bench against the Exiles at their temporary home.

Centre Will Butler and full-back Chris Pennell miss out having suffered an ankle and head injury respectively in the first half at Bath. Lock Andrew Kitchener is suspended.

Form: London Irish have lost their last eight Premiership Rugby fixtures since beating Gloucester at Madejski Stadium in February. The Exiles have won at Twickenham Stoop this season, beating Harlequins there in an away game on 15 February. Worcester Warriors have slipped to three straight Premiership defeats since beating Harlequins at Sixways on 26 August. Worcester’s only away win in the Premiership this campaign was at The Stoop against Harlequins in Round Four. The Warriors’ only defeat in their last four league fixtures with London Irish was 22-9 at Madejski Stadium in February 2018 whilst Worcester’s three previous Premiership Rugby victories at Twickenham Stoop were all against Harlequins.

The teams:

London Irish: 15 Tom Homer, 14 Ben Loader, 13 Matt Williams, 12 Terrence Hepetema, 11 James Stokes, 10 Paddy Jackson, 9 Nick Phipps, 8 Albert Tuisue, 7 Isaac Curtis-Harris, 6 Matt Rogerson (c), 5 Sebastian de Chaves, 4 George Nott, 3 Lovejoy Chawatama, 2 Agustin Creevy, 1 Harry Elrington
Replacements: 16 Ben Atkins, 17 Will Goodrick-Clarke, 18 Ollie Hoskins, 19 Chunya Munga, 20 Ben Donnell 21 Ben Meehan, 22 Theo Brophy Clews, 23 Ollie Hassell-Collins

Worcester: 15 Melani Nanai, 14 Tom Howe, 13 Francois Venter, 12 Ashley Beck, 11 Noah Heward, 10 Duncan Weir, 9 Francois Hougaard, 8 Cornell du Preez, 7 Matt Kvesic, 6 Ted Hill (c), 5 Graham Kitchener, 4 Anton Bresler, 3 Nick Schonert, 2 Niall Annett, 1 Ethan Waller
Replacements: 16 Beck Cutting, 17 Callum Black, 18 Richard Palframan, 19 Tom Dodd, 20 Sam Lewis, 21 Gareth Simpson, 22 Billy Searle, 23 Ollie Lawrence

Venue: Twickenham Stoop
Kick-off: 15:00 BST (14:00 GMT)
Referee: Craig Maxwell-Keys
Assistant referees: Simon Harding, Phil Watters
TMO: Claire Hodnett

Sale Sharks v Bath

Sale Sharks director of rugby Steve Diamond makes nine changes to the squad that edged Premiership Champions Saracens on Wednesday evening.

Manu Tuilagi returns alongside Rohan Janse van Rensburg to make his 100th Premiership appearance against Bath Rugby on Sunday.

Akker van der Merwe returns to the starting line-up for the Round 20 clash after suffering a slight ankle strain in Round 18. The Springbok is joined in the front-row by Valerey Morozov and Will-Griff John after dominant performances from both props at the AJ Bell Stadium on Wednesday.

Matt Postlethwaite keeps his place in the second-row in the absence of injured World Cup-winner Lood de Jager. The 23-year old academy graduate partners Springbok Jean-Luc du Preez at lock for Sunday’s contest with Bath.

Jono Ross returns to the starting line-up at blindside flanker and he is joined in the back-row by Ben and Tom Curry at openside and number eight respectively. Club Captain Ross was not involved in the midweek match vs Saracens, which ended a run of 66 consecutive appearances for the Sharks since making his debut for the club in 2017.

The influential combination of Faf de Klerk and AJ MacGinty return in the half-back roles on Sunday, with Steve Diamond opting to deploy his powerhouse centre partnership of Rohan Janse van Rensburg and Manu Tuilagi outside them. Tuilagi will make his 100th Premiership appearance when he takes to the field against Bath tomorrow.

Denny Solomona and Marland Yarde return to the starting line-up after a midweek rest, with the England internationals joined in the back three by the in-form Luke James, who returns at full-back.

Meanwhile, Bath make 13 changes to the side to face Sale Sharks in Round 20 of the Premiership.

Charlie Ewels returns to action and captains the side as the England international replaces Elliott Stooke having missed out on the 40-15 win over Worcester Warriors last time out.

Beno Obano, Tom Dunn and Will Stuart all come back into the starting XV as boss Stuart Hooper names an entirely changed front-row, whilst Josh Bayliss and Sam Underhill start at blindside and openside respectively with Taulupe Faletau replacing Zach Mercer.

Rhys Priestland and Ben Spencer both come back into the side to continue their partnership, replacing Matavesi and Will Chudley.

Ruaridh McConnochie also starts following his brace two games ago in the win against Harlequins and Gabriel Hamer-Webb retains his spot on the wide channel.

Jonathan Joseph comes into the side for Max Clark and is partnered with Matavesi, who moves back into the midfield, replacing Cameron Redpath.

Henry Thomas is named amongst the replacements for the first time since tearing his ACL in Round 3 against Wasps at the Ricoh Arena.

Form: Sale Sharks have lost just twice in the last nine rounds of Premiership Rugby, in successive matches in August, to Harlequins and Exeter Chiefs. The Sharks have been defeated just twice at AJ Bell Stadium in the Premiership this season, to Gloucester in Round One and to Exeter in Round 15. Bath’s only reversal in the last six rounds of the Premiership was 23-27 at home to Wasps on 31 August. Bath have won their last three away games in the tournament but have not won four in succession on their travels since season 2009/10. Bath have lost just one of their last four fixtures with Sale: 3-6 on their most recent visit to Salford in April 2019. Bath’s latest victory at AJ Bell Stadium was in September 2014.

The teams:

Sale: 15 Luke James, 14 Denny Solomona, 13 Manu Tuilagi, 12 Rohan Janse van Rensburg, 11 Marland Yarde, 10 AJ MacGinty, 9 Faf de Klerk, 8 Tom Curry, 7 Ben Curry, 6 Jono Ross (c), 5 Jean-Luc du Preez, 4 Matt Postlethwaite, 3 Will-Griff John, 2 Akker van der Merwe, 1 Valery Morozov
Replacements: 16 Rob Webber, 17 Coenie Oosthuizen, 18 Jake Cooper-Woolley, 19 Cobus Wiese, 20 Dan du Preez, 21 Will Cliff, 22 Sam James, 23 Arron Reed

Bath: 15 Tom de Glanville, 14 Gabriel Hamer-Webb, 13 Jonathan Joseph, 12 Josh Matavesi, 11 Ruaridh McConnochie, 10 Rhys Priestland, 9 Ben Spencer, 8 Taulupe Faletau, 7 Sam Underhill, 6 Josh Bayliss, 5 Charlie Ewels (c), 4 Josh McNally, 3 Will Stuart, 2 Tom Dunn, 1 Beno Obano
Replacements: 16 Ross Batty, 17 Juan Schoeman, 18 Henry Thomas, 19 Will Spencer, 20 Tom Ellis, 21 Miles Reid, 22 Will Chudley, 23 Cameron Redpath

Venue: AJ Bell Stadium
Kick-off: 15:00 BST (14:00 GMT)
Referee: Matthew Carley
Assistant referees: Luke Pearce, Tom Foley
TMO: Stuart Terheege

Saracens v Exeter Chiefs

Janco Venter will make his first Saracens and Premiership start against Exeter Chiefs as both sides roll out second-string teams on Sunday.

The summer signing from Jersey Reds has impressed in his two outings so far and features in the back-row alongside Sean Reffell and captain Calum Clark.

Centre Harry Sloan comes in for his maiden opportunity in a Sarries starting jersey and is joined in the midfield by Dom Morris.

The latter vacates the wing position he held on Wednesday for Rotimi Segun who switches from shirt number 11 to 14 after scoring his 12th and 13th tries of the season in the loss to Sale Sharks.

Elliott Obatoyinbo is back on the wing and Will Hooley lines up at full-back to complete the back three.

There are familiar pairings in the half-back slots and at second-row with Tom Whiteley and Manu Vunipola, and Joel Kpoku and Callum Hunter-Hill continuing their partnerships while props Sam Crean and Alec Clarey will pack down with a fresh face in hooker Kapeli Pifeleti.

On the bench, Senior Academy back Josh Hallett could make his senior debut for the club.

Meanwhile, Rob Baxter will give youth its chance as Exeter Chiefs ready themselves for Sunday’s Premiership trip to their rivals.

Having seen his side guarantee themselves of a fifth successive play-off place, the Chiefs need just a solitary point to ensure they will have home advantage when it comes to the last-four showdowns next month.

As expected, Baxter is not willing to risk many of his frontline stars, just a week out from their Champions Cup clash. Instead, it will be a youthful Chiefs squad that heads to the capital to tackle last season’s Premiership champions.

Team news for the Chiefs sees Baxter go with a completely different starting XV from that of midweek. England international Don Armand skippers the side from number eight and he will be joined in the pack by England U20s youngster Alfie Petch, who is set to make his first-ever Premiership start.

Behind them, Argentinian winger Facundo Cordero, centre Tom Wyatt and half-backs Joe Snow and Harvey Skinner, also get their maiden starts, teaming up in a back division which also includes the evergreen Phil Dollman at full-back.

On the bench, University of Exeter alumni Matt Johnson, Will Yarnell and Luke Mehson all get their first call-ups into a Premiership squad, as does Aussie playmaker Jack Walsh, prop James Kenny and back-row forward Aaron Hinkley.

Form: Saracens have been defeated in their last two Premiership Rugby encounters, to Wasps and Sale, but have not lost three in a row in the tournament since December 2017. Saracens lost their most recent match at Allianz Park 18-28 to Wasps but have not suffered back-to-back home game reversals in the competition since they were at Vicarage Road in February 2006. Exeter Chiefs have won their last seven Premiership fixtures since their 30-34 defeat at Harlequins on 29 February; their only other away loss in the tournament this season came at Bath in Round Two. Exeter beat Saracens 14-7 at Sandy Park in Round Seven and have only twice before achieved a Premiership Rugby regular season double over Saracens, in 2014/15 and 2017/18. The Chiefs have won on just one of their last four visits to Allianz Park.

The teams:

Saracens: 15 Will Hooley, 14 Rotimi Segun, 13 Dom Morris, 12 Harry Sloan, 11 Elliott Obatoyinbo, 10 Manu Vunipola, 9 Tom Whiteley, 8 Janco Venter, 7 Sean Reffell, 6 Calum Clark, 5 Callum Hunter-Hill, 4 Joel Kpoku, 3 Alec Clarey, 2 Kapeli Pifeleti, 1 Sam Crean
Replacements: 16 Tom Woolstencroft, 17 Robin Hislop, 18 Josh Ibuanokpe, 19 Cameron Boon, 20 Andy Christie, 21 Alex Day, 22 Juan Pablo Socino, 23 Josh Hallett

Exeter: 15 Phil Dollman, 14 Josh Hodge, 13 Corey Baldwin, 12 Tom Wyatt, 11 Facundo Cordero, 10 Harvey Skinner, 9 Joe Snow, 8 Don Armand (c), 7 Richard Capstick, 6 Sean Lonsdale, 5 Tom Price, 4 Will Witty, 3 Alfie Petch, 2 Jack Innard, 1 Billy Keast
Replacements: 16 Jordon Poole, 17 James Kenny, 18 Matt Johnson, 19 Dave Dennis, 20 Aaron Hinkley, 21 Will Yarnell, 22 Jack Walsh, 23 Luke Mehson

Venue: Allianz Park
Kick-off: 16:30 BST (15:30 GMT)
Referee: Adam Leal
Assistant referees: Andrew Jackson, Gareth Holsgrove
TMO: Sean Davey