United Rugby Championship: Big guns return for Stormers while Rob Russell comes in for Leinster

David Skippers
Rob Russell and Damian Willemse pic Leinster v StormersURC 2023.jpg

The United Rugby Championship resumes on Friday as two matches take place, with Leinster and Zebre Parma hosting the Stormers and Cardiff in their respective fixtures.

Zebre Parma v Cardiff

Zebre host Cardiff in their final home game of the URC season and welcome the return of their internationals for the fixture.

After debuting against Scotland in the final round of the Six Nations, Simone Gesi returns on the wing with South African’s Kobus van Wyk and Richard Kriel completing the back three.

Enrico Lucchin captains the side from the centres, where Erich Cronjé partners him. Chris Cook starts at scrum-half, with Geronimo Prisciantelli at number 10.

Up front, Paolo Buonfiglio starts at loosehead, Muhamed Hasa at tighthead and Jacques du Toit at hooker. Jan Uys and Leonard Krumov are the locks, with Luca Andreani and Iacopo Bianchi named at flank and Giovanni Licata at number eight.

On the bench, David Sisi returns from a long-term injury layoff and is joined by fellow Azzurri internationals Jacopo Trulla and Alessandro Fusco.

The Zebre repalcements are Giampietro Ribaldi, Luca Rizzoli, Riccardo Genovese, Sisi, Matt Kvesic, Fusco, Antonio Rizzi and Jacopo Trulla.

Wales internationals return for Cardiff

Wales internationals James Botham, Thomas Young and Rhys Priestland return for Cardiff on Friday evening after a spell on the sidelines. Young features from the bench while Botham and Priestland return in the starting XV.

Lloyd Williams partners Priestland in the halfbacks while Cardiff welcomes back newly capped international Mason Grady from Test duty in the Six Nations. Max Llewellyn joins Grady in the centres, with Jason Harries and Owen Lane on the wings and Ben Thomas at fullback.

In the pack, James Ratti starts at number eight, with Shane Lewis-Hughes at blindside and Botham at openside.

Teddy Williams links up with captain Turnball in the second row, with hooker Liam Belcher flanked by loosehead Corey Domachowski and tighthead Kieron Assiratti in the front row.

Director of rugby Dai Young has further firepower to call on from the bench with Rhys Carre also returning from Test duty and is listed as front row cover along with Kristian Dacey and Will Davies-King.

Seb Davies, Young, Ellis Bevan, Jarrod Evans and Matthew Morgan are the remaining substitutes.

The teams:

Zebre15 Richard Kriel, 14 Kobus van Wyk, 13 Erich Cronjé, 12 Enrico Lucchin (c), 11 Simone Gesi, 10 Geronimo Prisciantelli, 9 Chris Cook, 8 Giovanni Licata, 7 Iacopo Bianchi, 6 Luca Andreani, 5 Leonard Krumov, 4 Jan Uys, 3 Muhamed Hasa, 2 Jacques Du Toit, 1 Paolo Buonfiglio
Replacements: 16 Giampietro Ribaldi, 17 Luca Rizzoli, 18 Riccardo Genovese, 19 David Sisi, 20 Matt Kvesic, 21 Alessandro Fusco, 22 Antonio Rizzi, 23 Jacopo Trulla

Cardiff: 15 Ben Thomas, 14 Owen Lane, 13 Mason Grady, 12 Max Llewellyn, 11 Jason Harries, 10 Rhys Priestland, 9 Lloyd Williams, 8 James Ratti, 7 James Botham, 6 Shane Lewis-Hughes, 5 Teddy Williams, 4 Josh Turnball (c), 3 Kieron Assiratti, 2 Liam Belcher, 1 Corey Domachowski
16 Kristian Dacey, 17 Rhys Carre, 18 Will Davies-King, 19 Seb Davies, 20 Thomas Young, 21 Ellis Bevan, 22 Jarrod Evans, 23 Matthew Morgan

Venue: Stadio Lanfranchi
Kick-off: 20:10 local (19:10 GMT)
Referee: Mike Adamson (Scotland)
Assistant referees: Riccardo Angelucci (Italy), Matteo Locatelli (Italy)
TMO: Ben Blain (Scotland)

Leinster v Stormers

Rob Russell replaces the injured Jamie Osborne in the only personnel change from Leinster’s bonus point win over Edinburgh earlier this month. Ciarán Frawley moves from full-back to inside centre, with Jordan Larmour moving from the wing to full-back.

Dave Kearney joins Russell and Larmour in the back three, with Liam Turner partnering Frawley in the centre.

Harry Byrne and Luke McGrath continue their partnership at half-back.

The pack remains unchanged from the win in the Scottish capital. Michael Milne, John McKee and Michael Ala’alatoa retain their places in the front-row.

Ross Molony is partnered by Jason Jenkins in the second-row, with captain Rhys Ruddock, Scott Penny and Max Deegan retaining their places in the back-row.

On the bench, there is a welcome return from injury for Ed Byrne, who looks set to make his first appearance of 2023.

Meanwhile, the Stormers welcome back a host of Springboks for this highly anticipated fixture between the United Rugby Championship’s pacesetters and the defending champions.

Captain Steven Kitshoff, Frans Malherbe, Marvin Orie and Damian Willemse all make their return for the men from the Cape.

Willemse is joined in midfield by Dan du Plessis, while Paul de Wet partners Manie Libbok at half-back with Herschel Jantjies and Jean-Luc du Plessis on the replacements bench.

Hacjivah Dayimani is also back in the starting line-up at number eight, with Deon Fourie and Ben-Jason Dixon on the flanks. Orie will link up with Ruben van Heerden in the second-row, while Kitshoff and Malherbe will be either side of hooker Joseph Dweba at scrum-time.

The teams:

Leinster15 Jordan Larmour, 14 Rob Russell, 13 Liam Turner, 12 Ciarán Frawley, 11 Dave Kearney, 10 Harry Byrne, 9 Luke McGrath, 8 Max Deegan, 7 Scott Penny, 6 Rhys Ruddock (c), 5 Jason Jenkins, 4 Ross Molony, 3 Michael Ala’alatoa, 2 John McKee, 1 Michael Milne
16 Lee Barron, 17 Ed Byrne, 18 Vakhtang Abdaladze, 19 Brian Deeny, 20 Will Connors, 21 Nick McCarthy, 22 Charlie Tector, 23 Ben Brownlee

Stormers: 15 Clayton Blommetjies, 14 Suleiman Hartzenberg, 13 Dan du Plessis, 12 Damian Willemse, 11 Seabelo Senatla, 10 Manie Libbok, 9 Paul de Wet, 8 Hacjivah Dayimani, 7 Ben-Jason Dixon, 6 Deon Fourie, 5 Marvin Orie, 4 Ruben van Heerden, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Joseph Dweba, 1 Steven Kitshoff (c)
Replacements: 16 JJ Kotze, 17 Brok Harris, 18 Neethling Fouche, 19 Ernst van Rhyn, 20 Willie Engelbrecht, 21 Marcel Theunissen, 22 Herschel Jantjies, 23 Jean-Luc du Plessis

Venue: RDS Arena
Kick-off: 19:35 GMT
Referee: Sam Grove-White (Scotland)
Assistant referees: Peter Martin (Ireland), Keane Davison (Ireland)
TMO: Andrew McMenemy (Scotland)

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