Malakai Fekitoa returns for Wasps

Date published: February 20 2020

Two matches are set to take place in the Premiership on Friday with Sale Sharks and Wasps hosting Leicester Tigers and Saracens respectively.

Sale Sharks v Leicester Tigers

England back-row Mark Wilson is set to make his full Sale Sharks debut as Steve Diamond makes five changes to his starting line-up ahead of this clash with Leicester Tigers at the AJ Bell Stadium.

Diamond names Coenie Oosthuizen and Jake Cooper-Woolley in the pack this week, continuing his rotation of the front-row with the pair stepping in ahead of Ross Harrison and WillGriff John respectively.

After leaving the field against Saracens at Allianz Park just 10 minutes into the first half, Bryn Evans passes a mid-week HIA assessment to take his place in the second-row alongside Jean-Luc du Preez. The Springbok’s twin brother Daniel features at number eight alongside Jono Ross and Wilson in the back-row, Wilson replaces Ben Curry in this weekend’s starting XV.

Will Cliff and Rob du Preez continue to develop their partnership and influence the team from the half-back roles on Friday.

The James brothers combine in midfield with Luke replacing Rohan Janse van Rensburg at inside centre and Sam remaining at outside centre. Marland Yarde comes into the side on the left wing as Byron McGuigan returns to international duty with Scotland. The England international teams up with Chris Ashton and Simon Hammersley in the back three.

Meanwhile, Dan Cole will captain Leicester Tigers in this encounter.

The 95-cap England prop leads the team in the absence of front-row colleague Tom Youngs, who starts a suspension.

Tatafu Polota-Nau replaces Youngs at hooker, and there are places for Tommy Reffell and Ifereimi Boladau in the pack with Jordan Taufua and Sione Kalamafoni ruled out by injury this week.

After securing a third successive home win last weekend with an 18-9 victory over Wasps, Tigers recall Noel Reid and Jordan Olowofela to the back-line for this Round 11 contest.

With scrum-half Ben Youngs on England duty and Ben White picking up an injury in the win over Wasps, Tigers also give a Premiership debut to Academy graduate and England U20s representative Jack Van Poortvliet.

Johnny McPhillips, a summer signing from Ulster, could also make his first Premiership appearance for the club after being named among the replacements.

Ellis Genge, George Ford, Jonny May, Manu Tuilagi and Ben Youngs are on England duty at the Six Nations.

Form: Sale Sharks have lost just once at AJ Bell Stadium in Premiership Rugby in their last eight matches: 16-18 to Gloucester in the opening round this campaign. Leicester Tigers have won just three matches in the opening ten rounds of Premiership Rugby but their only defeat in their last four matches in the tournament was 10-13 at Bath on 25 January. Tigers have not won away from home in Premiership Rugby since a victory at Newcastle Falcons in April. Sale beat Leicester 32-5 on their most recent meeting in March at Salford to end a four-game losing run to the East Midlanders in Premiership Rugby. The Tigers have won on just one of their last four visits to AJ Bell Stadium.

The teams:

Sale Sharks: 15 Simon Hammersley, 14 Chris Ashton, 13 Sam James, 12 Luke James, 11 Marland Yarde, 10 Robert du Preez, 9 Will Cliff, 8 Daniel du Preez, 7 Mark Wilson, 6 Jono Ross, 5 Jean-Luc du Preez, 4 Bryn Evans, 3 Jake Cooper-Woolley, 2 Rob Webber, 1 Coenie Oosthuizen
Replacements: 16 Curtis Langdon, 17 Ross Harrison, 18 WillGriff John, 19 James Phillips, 20 Matt Postlethwaite, 21 Gus Warr, 22 Tom Curtis, 23 Denny Solomona

Leicester Tigers: 15 Telusa Veainu, 14 Jonah Holmes, 13 Jaco Taute, 12 Kyle Eastmond, 11 Jordan Olowofela, 10 Noel Reid, 9 Jack Van Poortvliet, 8 Ifereimi Boladau, 7 Tommy Reffell, 6 Hanro Liebenberg, 5 Will Spencer, 4 Tomás Lavanini, 3 Dan Cole (c), 2 Tatafu Polota-Nau, 1 Greg Bateman
Replacements: 16 Jake Kerr, 17 Nephi Leatigaga, 18 Joe Heyes, 19 Joe Batley, 20 Harry Wells, 21 Sam Lewis, 22 Harry Simmons, 23 Johnny McPhillips

Venue: AJ Bell Stadium
Kick-off: 19:45 GMT
Referee: Ian Tempest
Assistant referees: Wayne Falla, Jamie Leahy
TMO: Trevor Fisher

Wasps v Saracens

All Blacks centre Malakai Fekitoa is back in the Wasps starting line-up for the club’s first ever Friday night Premiership clash at Ricoh Arena against Saracens.

Fekitoa has recovered from a knee knock to start and is one of four changes to Wasps’ starting line-up.

Brad Shields is handed his first start since early November as he gets the nod at number eight alongside Jack Willis and co-captain Thomas Young in the back-row, with Nizaam Carr named on the bench. Sione Vailanu misses out with a knee problem.

In the second-row, Charlie Matthews is back in the side to step in for Wales call-up Will Rowlands, and partners Academy lock Thibaud Flament.

The front-row sees Ben Harris start for the first time since December after overcoming a shoulder knock to partner Tommy Taylor and Kieran Brookes, as Simon McIntyre misses out with a groin injury.

In the backs, co-captain Dan Robson and Jacob Umaga maintain their spots as the half-back combination while Fekitoa joins fellow New Zealander Jimmy Gopperth in the centres. Marcus Watson, Josh Bassett and Zach Kibirige occupy the back three once again.

Lima Sopoaga, Tom West, Tim Cardall and Will Porter are back among the replacements as Wasps look to return to winning ways.

Meanwhile, Saracens Academy flanker Sean Reffell will make his first Premiership start in this match.

The 21-year-old has featured three times as a replacement in the league to date and has earned the number seven jersey for the trip to the Ricoh Arena.

Reffell is one of three changes to the Sarries pack which started the victory over Sale Sharks last time out.

Prop Richard Barrington and hooker Jack Singleton are reinstated, joining South Africa international Vincent Koch in the front-row.

Lock duo Joel Kpoku and Callum Hunter-Hill will link-up in the boiler room for the fourth game running while Nick Isiekwe and Jackson Wray continue at six and eight respectively.

The back-line remains pretty consistent to the Sale match with Duncan Taylor the only fresh face as he replaces Alex Lozowski at outside centre.

Dom Morris and Kapeli Pifeleti both return to the matchday 23 as replacements.

Form: Wasps have recorded only two victories in Premiership Rugby since Round 3: both away from home, at Bristol in round 7 and at Worcester in Round 9. Wasps’ solitary victory at the Ricoh Arena in Premiership Rugby this season was against Bath on 2 November. Saracens’ last five fixtures in Premiership Rugby have all been won by the home side on the day. Saracens’ only victory away from home in any tournament since November was 22-15 at Ospreys in Round 5 of the European Champions Cup. Saracens have won their last six encounters with Wasps in all competitions since the West Midlanders 35-15 victory in Premiership Rugby at the Ricoh Arena in May 2017. Saracens have faced Wasps on five previous occasion at the Ricoh Arena and lost just once.

The teams:

Wasps: 15 Marcus Watson, 14 Zach Kibirige, 13 Malakai Fekitoa, 12 Jimmy Gopperth, 11 Josh Bassett, 10 Jacob Umaga, 9 Dan Robson (cc), 8 Brad Shields, 7 Thomas Young (cc), 6 Jack Willis, 5 Thibaud Flament, 4 Charlie Matthews, 3 Kieran Brookes, 2 Tommy Taylor, 1 Ben Harris
Replacements: 16 Gabriel Oghre, 17 Tom West, 18 Biyi Alo, 19 Tim Cardall, 20 Nizaam Carr, 21 Will Porter, 22 Lima Sopoaga, 23 Michael Le Bourgeois

Saracens: 15 Alex Goode, 14 Rotimi Segun, 13 Duncan Taylor, 12 Brad Barritt (c), 11 Alex Lewington, 10 Manu Vunipola, 9 Tom Whiteley, 8 Jackson Wray, 7 Sean Reffell, 6 Nick Isiekwe, 5 Callum Hunter-Hill, 4 Joel Kpoku, 3 Vincent Koch, 2 Jack Singleton, 1 Richard Barrington
Replacements: 16 Tom Woolstencroft, 17 Rhys Carre, 18 Josh Ibuanokpe, 19 Andy Christie, 20 Kapeli Pifeleti, 21 Ben Spencer, 22 Dom Morris, 23 Ali Crossdale

Venue: Ricoh Arena
Kick-off: 19:45 GMT
Referee: Christophe Ridley
Assistant referees: Mike Hudson, Shane Lewis
TMO: Nigel Carrick