Ollie Thorley makes Gloucester return for Wasps clash

Date published: November 27 2020

Saturday’s four Premiership games are Northampton Saints v Harlequins, Bristol Bears v Worcester Warriors, Gloucester v Wasps and Exeter Chiefs v Bath, with London Irish facing Leicester Tigers in Brentford on Sunday.


Northampton Saints v Harlequins

James Grayson and Alex Mitchell will both bring up their 50th appearances for Northampton Saints this weekend, as Chris Boyd names his matchday 23 to take on Harlequins in the Premiership.

Fly-half Grayson, 22, has already notched up over 300 points in his fledgling career in Black, Green and Gold, while 23-year-old half-back partner Mitchell has an impressive 15 tries to his name for Northampton – and both will earn a half-century of club caps on Saturday.

Boyd’s side went down 30-17 the last time the sides met in August, but that ended a four-game winning run over the south-west Londoners and Franklin’s Gardens has not been a happy hunting ground for Quins in recent years, with Saints unbeaten on home soil against the Quarters since December 2012.

The hosts welcome Lewis Ludlam back into the 23 for the first time this season from international duty, with the flanker starting in the back-row and skippering Northampton alongside loosehead prop Alex Waller in his new role as club co-captain.

Reece Marshall makes his first Saints start since May 2019 at hooker, with Paul Hill extending his run at tighthead to complete the front-row.

David Ribbans, who returned from England camp last week to come off the bench for Northampton, is selected to start against Quins alongside Fiji international Api Ratuniyarawa in the engine room – meaning Nick Isiekwe shifts into the back-row alongside Ludlam and Tom Wood, who slots in at number eight with Teimana Harrison out injured.

Mitchell and Grayson start together in the half-back berths for Saints for only the seventh time, with Piers Francis and Matt Proctor selected outside them in the centres for the second week running.

Tom Collins kicked off the new season with a try last time out against Sale, and the 26-year-old flyer continues in the back three; Ahsee Tuala also continues on the opposite wing, but Harry Mallinder comes into the Northampton XV at full-back for his first start since March after impressing on his return from injury last week.

For Harlequins, head of rugby Paul Gustard has made one change to the starting XV that kicked off the 2020/21 Premiership season last weekend as he prepares his side for a trip to the Midlands.

Lock Glen Young starts in the four jersey alongside club captain Stephan Lewies in the injury-enforced absence of Matt Symons.

Amongst the replacements, England centre Joe Marchant and Scottish duo Scott Steele and James Lang return to the 23 having spent the last few weeks in their respective international camps.

Also amongst the replacements, back-row James Chisholm returns to the matchday squad in the 20 jersey having overcome a knee injury, while 20-year-old lock Hugh Tizard looks to make his Premiership debut from the 19 jersey.

Form: Northampton Saints’ most recent victory was 27-3 against London Irish at the Twickenham Stoop on August 22. The East Midlanders have lost their last seven fixtures at Franklin’s Gardens, their worst home losing run in the professional era. Harlequins last six Premiership Rugby fixtures have all been won by the home side on the day. Harlequins have not lost away from home in the tournament since a trip to Worcester on August 26. Quins beat Northampton 30-17 at the Twickenham Stoop the last time the clubs met, in August, to end a four-game losing run to Saints. Harlequins have not tasted success at Franklin’s Gardens since an 18-9 Premiership victory in December 2012.

The teams:

Northampton Saints: 15 Harry Mallinder, 14 Ahsee Tuala, 13 Matt Proctor, 12 Piers Francis, 11 Tom Collins, 10 James Grayson, 9 Alex Mitchell, 8 Tom Wood, 7 Lewis Ludlam (cc), 6 Nick Isiekwe, 5 David Ribbans, 4 Api Ratuniyarawa, 3 Paul Hill, 2 Reece Marshall, 1 Alex Waller (cc)
Replacements: 16 James Fish, 17 Nick Auterac, 18 Owen Franks, 19 Alex Coles, 20 Shaun Adendorff, 21 Henry Taylor, 22 Fraser Dingwall, 23 Rory Hutchinson

Harlequins: 15 Mike Brown, 14 Nathan Earle, 13 Luke Northmore, 12 Andre Esterhuizen, 11 Cadan Murley, 10 Marcus Smith, 9 Danny Care, 8 Alex Dombrandt, 7 Will Evans, 6 Tom Lawday, 5 Stephan Lewies (c), 4 Glen Young, 3 Wilco Louw, 2 Scott Baldwin, 1 Santiago Garcia Botta
Replacements: 16 Joe Gray, 17 Jordan Els, 18 Simon Kerrod, 19 Hugh Tizard, 20 James Chisholm, 21 Scott Steele, 22 James Lang, 23 Joe Marchant

Venue: Franklin’s Gardens
Kick-off: 14:00 GMT
Referee: Thomas Foley
Assistant referees: Jack Makepeace, Simon McConnell
Television match official: Rowan Kitt

Bristol Bears v Worcester Warriors

Ioan Lloyd returns to the starting line-up as Bristol Bears face Worcester Warriors on Saturday.

The Welsh international – who earned his first cap in the win over Georgia last weekend – is one of two changes to the side for the Round Two Premiership clash.

Nathan Hughes is named in the back-row, while Tiff Eden and Max Lahiff also come into the matchday squad having returned to full fitness.

Meanwhile, Worcester pair Ted Hill and Andrew Kitchener will make their 50th appearances for the club in Saturday’s match at Ashton Gate.

Blindside flanker Hill and lock Kitchener are both products of the academy and have now established themselves in the senior squad.

Hill, who was capped by England as a replacement two years ago, has been involved in England’s Autumn Nations Cup squad but he was released for last weekend’s win over Ireland and was not recalled for the match against Wales at Llanelli.

Hill made his debut in an Anglo-Welsh Cup match against Sale Sharks but had to wait almost a year for his next appearance. He has since become a permanent fixture in the back-row and has scored 12 tries.

Kitchener made his debut a year earlier than Hill and, until last year, combined his Warriors commitments with studying for a first-class degree in economics at Birmingham University.

With his elder brother, Graham, currently missing because of a foot injury, Kitchener bossed the lineout in last week’s opening day victory over London Irish.

The Warriors have made two changes to the starting XV with Callum Black, who made his 100th appearance off the bench last week, named at loosehead prop and Matt Kvesic at openside flanker.

Back-row forward Joe Batley, who made his first start for Warriors last week, is in line to play against his old club having joined from Bristol Bears during the summer.

Form: Bristol Bears have lost their last two matches in Premiership Rugby, both to Wasps – they have not lost three games in succession in the competition since Christmas and New Year last season. The Bears’ solitary defeat at Ashton Gate in 2020 in any competition was 22-25 to Exeter in Round Six of Premiership Rugby’s last campaign. Worcester Warriors have won their last three Premiership Rugby fixtures (excluding defaulted games), they have not won four in succession in the competition since March 2016. Bristol have won their last two encounters against Worcester but have never won three consecutive games against the Warriors. Worcester have won twice before at Ashton Gate, both very narrowly, 29-28 in the first leg of the RFU Championship Final in 2015 and 27-25 in Premiership Rugby in March 2019.

The teams:

Bristol Bears: 15 Ioan Lloyd, 14 Niyi Adeolokun, 13 Piers O’Conor, 12 Siale Piutau (c), 11 Henry Purdy, 10 Sam Bedlow, 9 Harry Randall, 8 Nathan Hughes, 7 Dan Thomas, 6 Chris Vui, 5 Joe Joyce, 4 Ed Holmes, 3 John Afoa, 2 Bryan Byrne, 1 Yann Thomas
Replacements: 16 Will Capon, 17 Jake Woolmore, 18 Max Lahiff, 19 John Hawkins, 20 Jake Heenan, 21 Andy Uren, 22 Tiff Eden, 23 Alapati Leiua

Worcester Warriors: 15 Melani Nanai, 14 Tom Howe, 13 Oli Morris, 12 Francois Venter, 11 Nick David, 10 Billy Searle, 9 Francois Hougaard, 8 Marco Mama, 7 Matt Kvesic, 6 Ted Hill (c), 5 Andrew Kitchener, 4 Anton Bresler, 3 Nick Schonert, 2 Niall Annett, 1 Callum Black
Replacements: 16 Beck Cutting, 17 Ethan Waller, 18 Richard Palframan, 19 George Merrick, 20 Joe Batley, 21 Gareth Simpson, 22 Jamie Shillcock, 23 Ashley Beck

Venue: Ashton Gate
Kick-off: 15:00 GMT
Referee: Ian Tempest
Assistant referees: John Meredith, Peter Allan
Television match official: Craig Maxwell-Keys

Gloucester v Wasps

Gloucester head coach George Skivington has named his matchday 23 as they prepare for their first home game of the season against Wasps.

Skivington has made five changes to the starting 15 which faced Leicester Tigers last weekend and sees Ollie Thorley, who has returned from training with the England camp, included in the team.

Jack Singleton, Freddie Clarke, Lloyd Evans and Tom Seabrook are the other changes to the starting line-up which will see Billy Twelvetrees step up and take the captaincy in the absence of Lewis Ludlow.

Val Rapava-Ruskin, Jack Singleton and Jack Stanley will pack down in the front-row with Ed Slater and Matt Garvey continuing their second-row partnership behind them. Ruan Ackermann keeps the number eight shirt and will have Freddie Clarke as his blindside flanker with Jordy Reid switching over from last time to play openside.

In the backs, Joe Simpson starts at scrum-half against his former club and has Lloyd Evans outside him at fly-half. Mark Atkinson and Twelvetrees link up in the centres again with Tom Seabrook, Thorley and Jason Woodward completing the back three.

Kyle Moyle will make his debut for the club if he comes on and is among a strong group of replacements who will make an impact when called upon. Henry Trinder, Alex Craig and Ciaran Knight will make their first appearances of the season if they feature off the bench.

Meanwhile, Wasps head coach Lee Blackett has named his side and there are six changes to the starting XV that beat Bristol on the opening weekend.

Sam Wolstenholme will make his first Premiership start at scrum-half, as he replaces Ben Vellacott, who takes a place amongst the substitutes.

Jacob Umaga misses out due to a knock picked up on Sunday, his absence sees Jimmy Gopperth switch to fly-half and Michael Le Bourgeois take his place at inside centre.

Brad Shields is also sidelined after the Round One game and his place at number eight goes to match-winner Tom Willis.

Jack Willis has been retained by England for their game against Wales, alongside Joe Launchbury and Dan Robson. Willis is replaced by Alfie Barbeary at blindside flanker.

Likewise, Will Rowlands and Matteo Minozzi are still away with Wales and Italy respectively.

In Launchbury’s absence, Thomas Young will captain the team once more at openside flanker.

In the front-row, Ben Harris comes in for Simon McIntyre at loosehead prop and Tom Cruse joins him at hooker, as Tommy Taylor swaps to the bench.

Amongst the replacements Charlie Atkinson and Ben Morris will look to make their first appearances since the away win at Saracens in September.

Form: Excluding defaulted fixtures, Gloucester have lost their last four matches since beating London Irish at Kingsholm in September. The Cherry & Whites have lost just once at home since the end of August – 15-28 to Harlequins in Round 20 of Premiership Rugby last season. Wasps have lost just once in their last nine Premiership Rugby encounters, to Exeter in last season’s final. The Coventry-based side have lost only once away from home in any competition in the last eleven months – 9-18 at Leicester in Premiership Rugby in February. Wasps’ victory over Gloucester at the Ricoh Arena in March ended a four-game losing run to the Cherry & Whites. Wasps most recent victory at Kingsholm was 30-23 in Premiership Rugby in December 2014.

The teams:

Gloucester: 15 Jason Woodward, 14 Ollie Thorley, 13 Billy Twelvetrees (c), 12 Mark Atkinson, 11 Tom Seabrook, 10 Lloyd Evans, 9 Joe Simpson, 8 Ruan Ackermann, 7 Jordy Reid, 6 Freddie Clarke, 5 Matt Garvey, 4 Ed Slater, 3 Jack Stanley, 2 Jack Singleton, 1 Val Rapava-Ruskin
Replacements: 16 James Hanson 17 Jamal Ford-Robinson 18 Ciaran Knight 19 Alex Craig 20 Jamie Gibson 21 Will Flinn 22 Henry Trinder 23 Kyle Moyle

Wasps: 15 Lima Sopoaga, 14 Zach Kibirige, 13 Juan de Jongh, 12 Michael Le Bourgeois, 11 Josh Bassett, 10 Jimmy Gopperth, 9 Sam Wolstenholme, 8 Tom Willis, 7 Thomas Young (c), 6 Alfie Barbeary, 5 James Gaskell, 4 Tim Cardall, 3 Kieran Brookes, 2 Tom Cruse, 1 Ben Harris
Replacements: 16 Tommy Taylor, 17 Tom West, 18 Jeff Toomaga-Allen, 19 Levi Douglas, 20 Ben Morris, 21 Ben Vellacott, 22 Charlie Atkinson, 23 Paolo Odogwu

Venue: Kingsholm
Kick-off: 15:00 GMT
Referee: Hamish Smales
Assistant referees: Adam Leal, Greg Macdonald
Television match official: Graham Hughes

Exeter Chiefs v Bath

Although Exeter Chiefs director of rugby Rob Baxter is still without a number of his frontline stars due to either international commitments or injury, he did receive a boost earlier this week when Scottish internationals Sam Skinner and Sam Hidalgo-Clyne were released from their national camp to take their place in Saturday’s matchday squad for the Chiefs’ clash with Bath at Sandy Park.

Both have featured for Gregor Townsend’s Scotland side in recent weeks, but their match minutes have been somewhat limited and he has granted them permission to play after their scheduled Autumn Nations Cup clash with Fiji was called off due to a Covid-19 outbreak in the Islanders’ camp.

Skinner is brought straight back into the starting mix, replacing Will Witty in Exeter’s second-row alongside Don Armand. Witty drops to the bench, where he will be joined by Hidalgo-Clyne.

The other change in personnel sees Ben Moon come in at loosehead prop with Alec Hepburn on the replacements bench, alongside Jack Innard and Jack Walsh, both of whom are added from last week’s side which beat Harlequins at Twickenham Stoop.

Meanwhile, Henry Thomas and Josh Bayliss have been named in Bath’s starting XV and will respectively make their 100th and 50th appearances for the Blue, Black and White at Sandy Park on Saturday.

Stuart Hooper’s side are boosted by the return of Beno Obano and Tom Dunn, following their time with England in the Autumn Nations Cup.

Club captain Charlie Ewels will make his first start of the 2020/21 campaign and leads the side for the trip to the double champions.

Bayliss is the only other change to the side, replacing Miles Reid, who is amongst the replacements.

Form: Exeter Chiefs have won their last four matches in all competitions since their 5-46 reversal at Wasps on October 4. The Chiefs have been defeated just once at Sandy Park since February – 19-22 against London Irish in Round 21 of Premiership Rugby. Bath are without a win in their last three Premiership Rugby fixtures since beating Gloucester at the Recreation Ground on September 22. Bath’s most recent away win was at Sale on September 13. The Chiefs’ only defeat to Bath in their last 11 meetings in all competitions was 10-13 at The Rec in October 2019. Bath have not been victorious at Sandy Park since October 2016.

The teams:

Exeter Chiefs: 15 Facundo Cordero, 14 Tom O’Flaherty, 13 Ian Whitten, 12 Ollie Devoto, 11 Olly Woodburn, 10 Joe Simmonds, 9 Jack Maunder, 8 Sam Simmonds, 7 Jannes Kirsten, 6 Dave Ewers, 5 Sam Skinner, 4 Don Armand, 3 Harry Williams, 2 Jack Yeandle (c), 1 Ben Moon
Replacements: 16 Jack Innard, 17 Alec Hepburn, 18 Marcus Street, 19 Will Witty, 20 Richard Capstick, 21 Sam Hidalgo-Clyne, 22 Jack Walsh, 23 Tom Hendrickson

Bath: 15 Tom de Glanville, 14 Ruaridh McConnochie, 13 Cameron Redpath, 12 Josh Matavesi, 11 Joe Cokanasiga, 10 Rhys Priestland, 9 Ben Spencer, 8 Zach Mercer, 7 Josh Bayliss, 6 Mike Williams, 5 Charlie Ewels (c), 4 Josh McNally, 3 Henry Thomas, 2 Tom Dunn, 1 Beno Obano
Replacements: 16 Jack Walker, 17 Lewis Boyce, 18 Christian Judge, 19 Elliott Stooke, 20 Miles Reid, 21 Will Chudley, 22 Max Clark, 23 Semesa Rokoduguni

Venue: Sandy Park
Kick-off: 17:30 GMT
Referee: Christophe Ridley
Assistant referees: Paul Dix, Jamie Leahy
Television match official: Stuart Terheege


London Irish v Leicester Tigers

London Irish is set to welcome Leicester Tigers to the Brentford Community Stadium on Sunday for the first rugby fixture at the stadium.

The Premiership Round Two clash will see the Exiles run out at their new home for the first time, beginning a new chapter in the club’s history.

A front-row with a vast amount of international experience has been named by Declan Kidney, with Allan Dell, Agustin Creevy and Sekope Kepu the selected trio.

An unchanged second-row of George Nott and Andrei Mahu continue from last week’s Worcester fixture, with Sean O’Brien and Blair Cowan set to wear the flanker jerseys. Matt Rogerson completes the pack and captains the side from number eight.

Ben Meehan and Paddy Jackson are the half-back duo, with Billy Meakes and Curtis Rona resuming their partnership in the centres.

Ollie Hassell-Collins, Ben Loader and Tom Homer form the unchanged back three.

In the replacements, there is a welcome return from injury for Steve Mafi, who hasn’t featured for the Exiles since before the 2019/20 season restart.

Meanwhile, Leicester Tigers welcome Matt Scott, Jordan Taufua and Nephi Leatigaga back to the matchday squad for Sunday’s trip.

Scotland international centre Scott returns to the backline after missing the Round One win over Gloucester as one of three changes to the starting line-up.

Ryan Bower and Cyle Brink join the forward pack after starting among the replacements a week ago.

Head coach Steve Borthwick brings Leatigaga and Taufua into the matchday squad for their first appearances of the season as Tigers travel south as the first visitors to face Irish at the new Brentford Community Stadium.

Scott joins Jaco Taute in midfield, with the back three of Freddie Steward, Kobus van Wyk and Harry Potter retaining their places. Zack Henry and Richard Wigglesworth continue as the half-back pairing.

Tom Youngs and Dan Cole accompany Bower in the front-row, with Calum Green and Harry Wells continuing at lock, forming a front five of players who all graduated through the Tigers academy ranks.

Back-rower Brink makes his first starting appearance for the club, playing alongside Hanro Liebenberg and Jasper Wiese.

Leatigaga, Charlie Clare and Joe Heyes are the front-row replacements, with Tommy Reffell and Taufua providing the other cover among the forwards. Ben White, Joaquin Diaz Bonilla and Guy Porter are the backs on the bench.

Form: Brentford Community Stadium becomes the 39th venue to host a Premiership Rugby fixture. London Irish have won just once in the last 12 Rounds of Premiership Rugby – 22-19 at champions, Exeter Chiefs on September 30. Leicester Tigers beat Gloucester 38-15 on Saturday but have not won successive Premiership Rugby encounters since October 2018. The Tigers’ most recent away win in any competitions was on a trip to Calvisano in the European Challenge Cup last December. Leicester have lost only one of their last eight fixtures with London Irish – 11-36 at Madejski Stadium in November 2019.

The teams:

London Irish: 15 Tom Homer, 14 Ben Loader, 13 Curtis Rona, 12 Billy Meakes, 11 Ollie Hassell-Collins, 10 Paddy Jackson, 9 Ben Meehan, 8 Matt Rogerson (c), 7 Blair Cowan, 6 Sean O’Brien, 5 Andrei Mahu, 4 George Nott, 3 Sekope Kepu, 2 Agustin Creevy, 1 Allan Dell
Replacements: 16 Motu Matu’u, 17 Harry Elrington, 18 Ollie Hoskins, 19 Chunya Munga, 20 Steve Mafi, 21 Nick Phipps, 22 Theo Brophy Clews, 23 Tom Parton

Leicester Tigers: 15 Freddie Steward, 14 Kobus van Wyk, 13 Jaco Taute, 12 Matt Scott, 11 Harry Potter, 10 Zack Henry, 9 Richard Wigglesworth, 8 Jasper Wiese, 7 Cyle Brink, 6 Hanro Liebenberg, 5 Calum Green, 4 Harry Wells, 3 Dan Cole, 2 Tom Youngs (c), 1 Ryan Bower
Replacements: 16 Charlie Clare, 17 Nephi Leatigaga, 18 Joe Heyes, 19 Tommy Reffell, 20 Jordan Taufua, 21 Ben White, 22 Joaquín Díaz Bonilla, 23 Guy Porter

Venue: Brentford Community Stadium
Kick-off: 16:15 GMT
Referee: Karl Dickson
Assistant referees: Anthony Woodthorpe, Roy Maybank
Television match official: David Grashoff