United Rugby Championship: Gavin Coombes starts at lock for Munster, Ollie Griffiths back for Dragons, Wandisile Simelane takes centre stage for Bulls

David Skippers
The United Rugby Championship continues on Friday as two matches take place, with the Dragons and Munster hosting the Bulls and Lions in their respective fixtures.

The United Rugby Championship (URC) continues on Friday as two matches take place, with the Dragons and Munster hosting the Bulls and Lions in their respective fixtures.

Dragons v Bulls

Dynamic back-row Ollie Griffiths make his first appearance of the season as Dragons face the might of the Bulls at Rodney Parade on Friday evening.

Griffiths is named at openside flanker and is one of five changes made by the Men of Gwent as they kick off the home campaign for 2023 in Newport.

The other change to the pack is a call-up for Sean Lonsdale, who operates at blindside.

Playmaker Sam Davies is recalled to the starting line-up and combines with Lewis Jones at half-back. Scrum-half Jones will make his 100th appearance in the URC in the fixture.

Centre Max Clark comes into the team, with Sio Tomkinson moving to wing, while the final change is a start at full-back for Jordan Williams.

Argentina international scrum-half Gonzalo Bertranou returns among the replacements with prop Lloyd Fairbrother, lock Huw Taylor and fly-half Will Reed.

Meanwhile, the Bulls have announced their matchday squad for the Round 12 URC showdown in Wales.

Wandisile Simelane starts at 13 for Bulls

Director of rugby Jake White has recalled Wandisile Simelane into the matchday 23 whilst retaining the services of the most of the squad that did duty against the Sharks in Durban, a week ago.

The front-row remains the same, with the only switch taking place between prop Gerard Steenekamp, who comes into the starting line-up at the expense of Simphiwe Matanzima, who drops down to the bench.

In the backline, Zak Burger will don number nine jersey at scrum-half whilst David Kriel starts on the left wing with Canan Moodie on the right. Harold Vorster starts at inside centre with Simelane outside him at 13. Kurt-Lee Arendse returns to full-back which means Johan Goosen is relegated to the bench.

The bench sees the addition of veteran hooker Bismarck du Plessis, who comes into the matchday 23 with Jan-Hendrik Wessels missing out due to a niggle. Scrum-half Embrose Papier returns to the squad with Goosen and Cornal Hendricks completing the backline cover.

The teams:

Dragons15 Jordan Williams, 14 Rio Dyer, 13 Steff Hughes (c), 12 Max Clark, 11 Sio Tomkinson, 10 Sam Davies, 9 Lewis Jones, 8 Ross Moriarty, 7 Ollie Griffiths, 6 Sean Lonsdale, 5 George Nott, 4 Joe Davies, 3 Chris Coleman, 2 Bradley Roberts, 1 Aki Seiuli
16 Brodie Coghlan, 17 Rob Evans, 18 Lloyd Fairbrother, 19 Huw Taylor, 20 Taine Basham, 21 Ben Fry, 22 Gonzalo Bertranou, 23 Will Reed

Bulls15 Kurt-Lee Arendse, 14 Canan Moodie, 13 Wandisile Simelane, 12 Harold Vorster, 11 David Kriel, 10 Chris Smith, 9 Zak Burger, 8 Elrigh Louw, 7 Cyle Brink, 6 Marco van Staden, 5 Ruan Nortje (c), 4 Ruan Vermaak, 3 Mornay Smith, 2 Johann Grobbelaar, 1 Gerard Steenekamp
16 Simphiwe Matanzima, 17 Bismarck du Plessis, 18 Sebastian Lombard, 19 Janko Swanepoel, 20 Nizaam Carr, 21 Embrose Papier, 22 Johan Goosen, 23 Cornal Hendricks

Venue: Rodney Parade
Kick-off: 19:35 GMT
Referee: Mike Adamson (Scotland)
Assistant referees: Mike English (Wales), Tom Spurrier (Wales)
TMO: Andrew McMenemy (Scotland)

Munster v Lions

Munster head coach Graham Rowntree has made six personnel changes and three positional switches from the side that narrowly defeated Ulster four days ago, as his side host the Lions.

Mike Haley retains the starting full-back jersey but is joined in the back three by Liam Coombes, who makes his first appearance since September after returning from injury, and Shane Daly.

Malakai Fekitoa shifts into the outside centre channel, with Rory Scannell replacing Antoine Frisch in the starting line-up.

After scoring the match-winning try and conversion against Ulster, Ben Healy is rewarded with a start at fly-half, with Paddy Patterson retained at scrum-half.

Jack O’Donoghue captains the side from the openside flank with John Hodnett at blindside and Alex Kendellen at number eight.

Gavin Coombes shifts to the engine room

Gavin Coombes trades the number eight jersey for a place in the second-row, where he packs down with Jean Kleyn, while there are two changes up front as Josh Wycherley, Diarmuid Barron, and Roman Salanoa start.

On the bench, Dan Goggin returns for his first game since September.

As for the Lions, head coach Ivan van Rooyen has made two changes to his starting backline as well as two in his pack from the side that was trounced 40-8 by the Stormers.

Quan Horn starts at full-back, with Stean Pienaar replacing Rabz Maxwane on the right wing while Ediwill van der Merwe gets the nod on the left.

Marius Louw captains the side from inside centre with regular partner Henco van Wyk on his outside. The other change in the backline sees Morne van den Berg replace Sanele Nohamba at scrum-half to partner Jordan Hendrikse in the half-backs.

In the back-row, Emile van Heerden makes his debut on the blindside flank, having joined from the Sharks, with Jarod Cairns and Emmanuel Tshituka packing down on the openside and at number eight respectively.

Ruan Venter moves from the flank into the second-row, where he is joined by Darrien Landsberg, who comes in for Pieter Jansen van Vuren.

The front-row is unchanged, with JP Smith at loosehead, PJ Botha at hooker and Asenathi Ntlabakanye at tighthead.

The teams:

Munster: 15 Mike Haley, 14 Shane Daly, 13 Malakai Fekitoa, 12 Rory Scannell, 11 Liam Coombes, 10 Ben Healy, 9 Paddy Patterson, 8 Alex Kendellen, 7 John Hodnett, 6 Jack O’Donoghue (c), 5 Gavin Coombes, 4 Jean Kleyn, 3 Roman Salanoa, 2 Diarmuid Barron, 1 Josh Wycherley
16 Scott Buckley, 17 Dave Kilcoyne, 18 Stephen Archer, 19 Cian Hurley, 20 Jack O’Sullivan, 21 Conor Murray, 22 Dan Goggin, 23 Patrick Campbell

Lions: 15 Quan Horn, 14 Stean Pienaar, 13 Henco van Wyk, 12 Marius Louw (c), 11 Edwill van der Merwe, 10 Jordan Hendrikse, 9 Morne van den Berg, 8 Emmanuel Tshituka, 7 Emile van Heerden, 6 Jarod Cairns, 5 Darrien Landsberg, 4 Ruan Venter, 3 Asenathi Ntlabakanye, 2 PJ Botha, 1 JP Smith
Replacements: 16 Michael van Vuuren, 17 Morgan Naude, 18 Ruan Smith, 19 Willem Alberts, 20 Sibusiso Sangweni, 21 Andre Warner, 22 Gianni Lombard, 23 Manuel Rass

Venue: Musgrave Park
Kick-off: 19:35 GMT
Referee: Hollie Davidson (Scotland)
Assistant referees: Andrew Cole (Ireland), Sam Holt (Ireland)
TMO: Sam Grove-White (Scotland)

READ MORE: Edinburgh: Scotland-qualified fly-half Ben Healy joins from Munster