Saracens trip sees Ben Curry hit 100 games, aged 21

Date published: February 14 2020

There’s four Premiership games scheduled for Saturday, including Saracens v Sale Sharks, with the round concluding on Sunday when Northampton Saints take on Bristol Bears at Franklin’s Gardens.

Saturday

Harlequins vs London Irish

Hooker Joe Gray, who recently joined on loan from Saracens, is available for selection and will make his second Harlequins debut against London Irish, having previously played over 150 games for the club.

Set to return after a long injury lay-off is former Welsh international Scott Baldwin, with the 31-year-old hooker named as a replacement.

Premiership Player of the Month for January, Alex Dombrandt, starts at number eight alongside Will Evans and the explosive James Chisholm who captains the side at blindside.

The side includes three changes in the backs with Martin Landajo starting at scrum-half whilst Cadan Murley moves from the wing into centre with Tom Penny injured, and Ross Chisholm starts at 14.

Meanwhile, Harry Elrington, Dave Porecki and Sekope Kepu start in the London Irish front-row with captain Franco van der Merwe and Adam Coleman in the second-row. Matt Rogerson, Blair Cowan and Albert Tuisue are the back-row trio.

Ben Meehan and Stephen Myler continue their combination at nine and ten with Terrence Hepetema and Curtis Rona in the midfield. Ollie Hassell-Collins and Waisake Naholo start on the wing with Ben Loader making his return from injury to start at full-back.

Ben Atkins, Allan Dell and Ollie Hoskins are the front-row replacements with Steve Mafi and Ben Donnell covering the second and back-row. Atkins and Donnell return for the break in the U20 Six Nations to be included in the matchday squad, with Dell returning from senior international duty with Scotland. Nick Phipps, James Stokes and Matt Williams will cover the back positions.

Form: Harlequins have lost just once in the last five rounds of Gallagher Premiership Rugby: 10-48 at Sale on 3 January. Harlequins’ 41-14 victory against Saracens at Twickenham Stoop in Round 9 of Premiership Rugby was their first victory at the venue in any competition since 1 December. London Irish beat Northampton 20-16 at Franklin’s Gardens in Round 9 of Gallagher Premiership Rugby, their first victory in any competition since they beat Bayonne at the Madejski Stadium in November. The Exiles have not won successive away matches in Premiership Rugby since September 2014. London Irish have won their last two matches against Harlequins in Premiership Rugby but have not won three in a row in the tournament against their London neighbours since 2006. London Irish’s 35-5 victory at The Stoop on their most recent visit in April 2018 was their first at the venue since 2009.

The teams:

Harlequins: 15 Aaron Morris, 14 Ross Chisholm, 13 Cadan Murley, 12 Paul Lasike, 11 Gabriel Ibitoye, 10 Marcus Smith, 9 Martin Landajo, 8 Alex Dombrandt, 7 Will Evans, 6 James Chisholm (c), 5 Matt Symons, 4 Glen Young, 3 Will Collier, 2 Joe Gray, 1 Santiago Garcia Botta
Replacements: 16 Scott Baldwin, 17 Mark Lambert, 18 Simon Kerrod, 19 Tevita Cavubati, 20 Semi Kunatani, 21 Danny Care, 22 Brett Herron, 23 Niall Saunders

London Irish: 15 Ben Loader, 14 Waisake Naholo, 13 Curtis Rona, 12 Terrence Hepetema, 11 Ollie Hassell-Collins, 10 Stephen Myler, 9 Ben Meehan, 8 Albert Tuisue, 7 Blair Cowan, 6 Matt Rogerson, 5 Adam Coleman, 4 Franco van der Merwe (c), 3 Sekope Kepu, 2 Dave Porecki, 1 Harry Elrington
Replacements: 16 Ben Atkins, 17 Allan Dell, 18 Ollie Hoskins, 19 Steve Mafi, 20 Ben Donnell, 21 Nick Phipps, 22 Matt Williams, 23 James Stokes

Venue: Twickenham Stoop
Kick-off: 15:00 GMT
Referee: JP Doyle
Assistant referees: Mike Hudson, Greg Macdonald
Television match official: Sean Davey

Leicester Tigers vs Wasps

Back-rower Hanro Liebenberg returns to the Leicester Tigers line-up for their Premiership fixture against Wasps at Welford Road on Saturday.

Liebenberg is back to full fitness after injury and in line for his first appearance since the beginning of November as Tigers host their derby rivals.

He joins Jordan Taufua in the back-row for the first time, with Sione Kalamafoni at number eight.

Tigers are without five players with the England squad – Ellis Genge, George Ford, Jonny May, Manu Tuilagi and Ben Youngs – but Jonah Holmes returns to club duties from his commitments with the Wales squad.

Holmes joins Telusa Veainu and on-loan Rory Hughes in the back three, with Jaco Taute joining Kyle Eastmond at centre and academy graduates Tom Hardwick and Ben White continuing as the half-back pairing.

Guy Thompson and Calum Green are both still sidelined by injury.

Meanwhile, Jacob Umaga and Marcus Watson have been restored to the Wasps starting line-up for this game.

Umaga, who has been training with England’s Six Nations squad, is back in club action at fly-half while Watson has recovered from an Achilles knock to start at full-back.

Elsewhere, Michael Le Bourgeois starts at outside centre with Malakai Fekitoa (knee) still missing and Juan de Jongh (wrist) sidelined.

The rest of the backline remains unchanged from the win at Worcester three weeks ago – while there is just one change to the pack from the side that played that day – as Thibaud Flament starts in the second-row in place of James Gaskell. The Wasps centurion has been sidelined with a foot injury and will be out for approximately eight to ten weeks, while hooker Tom Cruse misses out through illness and a calf knock.

Zurabi Zhvania (knee) and Brad Shields (foot) both return from injury to be named among the replacements and could make their first appearances since December’s trip to Edinburgh, while there’s also a place on the bench for 20-year-old centre Sam Spink, who last featured in November when he made his Premiership debut for the club against Exeter Chiefs.

Thomas Young and Dan Robson co-captain the side once again as the Black and Golds look to continue their recent league form – having produced try bonus-point performances in each of their last three outings.

Form: Leicester Tigers’ only victory in the last six rounds of Gallagher Premiership Rugby was 31-18 at home to Bristol on 4 January. The Tigers have lost just once at Welford Road in any tournament since October: 22-31 to Exeter in Round 6 of Premiership Rugby. Wasps have won two of their last three Gallagher Premiership Rugby encounters, with both of those victories being secured on the road, at Bristol and at Worcester. Wasps have won their last three away games in all tournaments but have not won four in succession on their travels since 2014. The last six meetings between the two clubs in Gallagher Premiership Rugby have all been won by the home side on the day whilst Wasps only victory at Welford Road since 2008 came in September 2016.

The teams:

Leicester Tigers: 15 Telusa Veainu, 14 Jonah Holmes, 13 Jaco Taute, 12 Kyle Eastmond, 11 Rory Hughes, 10 Tom Hardwick, 9 Ben White, 8 Sione Kalamafoni, 7 Jordan Taufua, 6 Hanro Liebenberg, 5 Will Spencer, 4 Tomás Lavanini, 3 Dan Cole, 2 Tom Youngs (c), 1 Greg Bateman
Replacements: 16 Tatafu Polota-Nau, 17 Nephi Leatigaga, 18 Joe Heyes, 19 Harry Wells, 20 Tommy Reffell, 21 Harry Simmons, 22 Noel Reid, 23 George Worth

Wasps: 15 Marcus Watson, 14 Zach Kibirige, 13 Michael Le Bourgeois, 12 Jimmy Gopperth, 11 Josh Bassett, 10 Jacob Umaga, 9 Dan Robson (cc), 8 Nizaam Carr, 7 Thomas Young (cc), 6 Jack Willis, 5 Thibaud Flament, 4 Will Rowlands, 3 Kieran Brookes, 2 Tommy Taylor, 1 Simon McIntyre
Replacements: 16 Gabriel Oghre, 17 Zurabi Zhvania, 18 Biyi Alo, 19 Brad Shields, 20 Sione Vailanu, 21 Sam Wolstenholme, 22 Billy Searle, 23 Sam Spink

Venue: Welford Road
Kick-off: 15:00 GMT
Referee: Karl Dickson
Assistant referees: Simon Harding, Rob Warburton
Television match official: Trevor Fisher

Saracens vs Sale Sharks

A mixture of youth and experience will take to the field for Saracens when Sale Sharks visit Allianz Park on Saturday.

19-year-old Manu Vunipola returns from England U20s duty to take his place at fly-half meaning a switch back to full-back for Alex Goode – his first appearance in the 15 jersey since last season’s Premiership final.

Speedsters Rotimi Segun and Alex Lewington are named on the wings while captain Brad Barritt and Alex Lozowski make up the midfield.

Tom Whiteley comes in at scrum-half for his first start of the league season and will be behind a pack with four changes from the trip to face Sale in the Premiership Rugby Cup last time out.

Back from international duty with Wales, Rhys Carre takes his place at loosehead and South Africa international Vincent Koch is reinstated at tighthead. Hooker Tom Woolstencroft remains in the front-row.

Calum Clark and Jackson Wray are back at openside flanker and number eight respectively, joining Nick Isiekwe in the back-row and locks Joel Kpoku and Callum Hunter-Hill continue their partnership for the third match in a row.

On the bench, winger Ali Crossdale could make his first Premiership outing.

Meanwhile, Ben Curry will enter the record books this weekend as the 21-year-old becomes the youngest player to make 100 appearances for Sale Sharks after being named in the starting line-up.

Steve Diamond makes two personnel changes to the Sharks’ matchday 23 he named to face Saracens just eight days ago in the Premiership Rugby Cup semi-final, as Chris Ashton and Byron McGuigan return to the back three ahead of Saturday’s Premiership match.

Announcing his retirement plans this week, Rob Webber will make his final trip to Allianz Park as a player and after returning from Wales’ Six Nations camp, WillGriff John moves back into the starting line-up alongside Ross Harrison as the Sharks continue to consistently rotate their front-row options throughout the season.

The rest of the forwards remain unchanged for the trip to Allianz Park. Bryn Evans and Jean-Luc du Preez start in the second-row, with the formidable partnership of Jono Ross, Curry and last week’s man-of-the-match Daniel du Preez making up the back-row.

Will Cliff continues to demonstrate his electric form at scrum-half and partners up with Rob du Preez in the half-back roles. Rohan Janse van Rensburg and Sam James keep their spots in the midfield for the trip south, with a back three of Ashton, McGuigan and Simon Hammersley outside them.

Akker van der Merwe, Coenie Oosthuizen and Jake Cooper-Woolley make up an experienced replacement front-row, with Mark Wilson and James Phillips also named as forwards replacements. Phillips is set to make his 50th Sale Sharks appearance when he takes to the field.

Gus Warr, Luke James and Denny Solomona complete an exciting replacements bench.

Form: Saracens’ 14-41 reversal at Harlequins in Round 9 of Gallagher Premiership Rugby was their heaviest defeat in the competition since losing 23-64 to Wasps at Allianz Park in February 2016. Saracens have won their last six home games in all competitions since their 25-27 loss at home to Northampton in Round 1 of Premiership Rugby. Sale Sharks have won their last two Gallagher Premiership Rugby fixtures, at home to Harlequins and away at Exeter, but have not won three on the bounce in the competition since last January. The Sharks’ victory at the Chiefs in Round 9 of Premiership Rugby ended a six-game losing run on the road in all tournaments. Sale won their most recent Premiership Rugby encounter with Saracens 24-18 at AJ Bell Stadium in Round 12 last season but have not won successive matches against the Londoners in the competition since 2002. The Sharks have lost on all six previous occasions they have visited Allianz Park in Premiership Rugby.

The teams:

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

Sale Sharks: 15 Simon Hammersley, 14 Chris Ashton, 13 Sam James, 12 Rohan Janse van Rensburg, 11 Byron McGuigan, 10 Rob du Preez, 9 Will Cliff, 8 Daniel du Preez, 7 Ben Curry, 6 Jono Ross (c), 5 Jean-Luc du Preez, 4 Bryn Evans, 3 WillGriff John, 2 Rob Webber, 1 Ross Harrsion
Replacements: 16 Akker van der Merwe, 17 Coenie Oosthuizen, 18 Jake Cooper-Woolley, 19 James Phillips, 20 Mark Wilson, 21 Gus Warr, 22 Luke James, 23 Denny Solomona

Venue: Allianz Park
Kick-off: 15:00 GMT
Referee: Wayne Barnes
Assistant referees: Tom Foley, Hamish Smales
Television match official: Rowan Kitt

Worcester Warriors vs Bath

Nick David will make his Premiership debut for the Warriors against Bath at Sixways on Saturday.

The academy youngster has played much of his rugby at full-back but will start on the left wing against Bath.

David has made three senior starts this season on the wing in the European Challenge Cup and gets his Premiership debut in the absence of the injured Melani Nanai – who has been ruled out for the season – Ed Fidow, Tom Howe Perry Humphreys and Dean Hammond.

Utility back Scott van Breda will make his first Premiership start on the right wing in place of Humphreys (hip) as one of six changes to the side that faced Wasps three weeks ago.

Van Breda, who made two Premiership appearances off the bench last season, has had two spells on loan with the Southern Kings in the PRO14 this season.

South Africa international scrum-half Francois Hougaard returns having recovered from a foot injury with former England full-back Chris Pennell and fit-again South Africa centre Francois Venter recalled in place of Jamie Shillcock (thigh) and Ashley Beck (illness).

The Warriors welcome back three players who have been involved in Six Nations squad sessions in recent weeks.

Blindside flanker Ted Hill returns to club duty having trained with England for two weeks with number eight Cornell du Preez and fly-half Duncan Weir back from Scotland training.

Du Preez won his seventh cap but first since he joined the Warriors from Edinburgh two years ago, as a replacement in the Six Nations opener against Ireland in Dublin.

Lock Andrew Kitchener has recovered from a shoulder injury and is named among the replacements.

Meanwhile, Bath number eight Zach Mercer returns to the Blue, Black and White starting line-up following four months on the sidelines for the trip up the M5.

Stuart Hooper has made seven changes to the side that beat Leicester Tigers 13-10 in Round 9 of the Premiership, including Tom Dunn and Taulupe Faletau, who return to Bath from their respective countries’ Six Nations squads.

Dunn is the only change in the front-row as they continue to impress this season. In a new back-row combination, Francois Louw returns to captain the side with Tom Ellis joining the Springbok on the flanks and Mercer making up the starting pack.

Will Chudley comes in at scrum-half to replace Chris Cook and Ruaridh McConnochie returns to action as the winger replaces Aled Brew.

Josh Matavesi will make his first start for the club as the utility back comes in at inside centre with Jackson Willison shuffling to outside centre.

Form: Worcester Warriors’ only victory in the last four rounds of Gallagher Premiership Rugby was 20-6 at home to London Irish on 28 December. The Warriors have lost their last two home games in all tournaments but have not lost three in succession at Sixways since September 2017. Bath Rugby have lost just once in their last four Gallagher Premiership Rugby encounters: 15-29 at Gloucester in Round 8. Bath’s solitary victory on the road in any tournament since October was 38-10 at London Irish in Premiership Rugby on 22 December. Worcester have beaten Bath only twice since 2011, both in Gallagher Premiership Rugby at Sixways, in April 2017 and January 2019.

The teams:

Worcester Warriors: 15 Chris Pennell, 14 Scott van Breda, 13 Ollie Lawrence, 12 Francois Venter, 11 Nick David, 10 Duncan Weir, 9 Francois Hougaard, 8 Cornell du Preez, 7 Marco Mama, 6 Ted Hill, 5 Graham Kitchener, 4 Anton Brelser, 3 Nick Schonert, 2 Matt Moulds (c), 1 Ethan Waller
Replacements: 16 Joe Taufete’e, 17 Ryan Bower, 18 Richard Palframan, 19 Andrew Kitchener, 20 Sam Lewis, 21 Michael Heaney, 22 Jono Lance, 23 Ryan Mills

Bath: 15 Tom Homer, 14 Semesa Rokoduguni, 13 Jackson Willison, 12 Josh Matavesi, 11 Ruaridh McConnochie, 10 Rhys Priestland, 9 Will Chudley, 8 Zach Mercer, 7 Francois Louw (c), 6 Tom Ellis, 5 Elliott Stooke, 4 Josh McNally, 3 Christian Judge, 2 Tom Dunn, 1 Beno Obano
Replacements: 16 Jack Walker, 17 Lewis Boyce, 18 Sam Nixon, 19 Mike Williams, 20 Taulupe Faletau, 21 Chris Cook, 22 Freddie Burns, 23 Max Wright

Venue: Sixways
Kick-off: 15:00 GMT
Referee: Christophe Ridley
Assistant referees: Paul Dix, Wayne Falla
Television match official: David Rose

Sunday

Northampton Saints vs Bristol Bears

Club co-captain Teimana Harrison will notch up his 150th Northampton appearance this weekend as Saints take on Bristol Bears, with director of rugby Chris Boyd making five changes to his starting XV for the Franklin’s Gardens clash.

The men in Black, Green and Gold sit second in the Premiership standings despite a frustrating loss to London Irish last time out – their first home defeat in the league this season.

But with the Bears coming to town this Sunday, Saints will be hoping to extend a superb recent record against the West Country outfit having won seven of their last eight meetings stretching back to 2008.

Harrison will lead out the hosts on his 150th appearance for the club, with several players returning for Northampton either from injury or international duty.

Scotland centre Rory Hutchinson will line-up in the centres alongside Matt Proctor, who starts his first match since December after recovering from a concussion.

Half-backs James Grayson and Cobus Reinach are selected together for the second game running, with the number nine in scintillating form at present having scored six tries in Saints’ last five matches.

Taqele Naiyaravoro keeps his place in the back three but Tom Collins and Harry Mallinder both come in to start, with the latter making his first Premiership appearance for 15 months.

There are two further changes to the pack as lock Alex Moon returns from England duty to partner Alex Coles in the engine room, and club co-captain Alex Waller is named at loosehead prop alongside Mikey Haywood and Owen Franks in the front-row.

Northampton’s back-row of Harrison, Tom Wood and Mitch Eadie remains unchanged in terms of personnel, but Boyd has shuffled the trio around with Harrison this week wearing number eight.

Amongst the replacements the headline returnee for Saints is scrum-half Alex Mitchell – who is in line for his first appearance in Black, Green and Gold since sustaining a knee injury playing for England against the Barbarians last summer – with Fraser Dingwall also picked on the bench after spending the last few weeks in camp with the Red Rose.

For Bristol, Charles Piutau makes his return from injury when they face the Saints on Sunday.

The full back is the only change to the side that beat Gloucester in round nine of the competition, as Bristol target back-to-back wins in the Premiership.

Luke Morahan switches to the wing, while Shaun Malton continues at hooker with Harry Thacker (neck) unavailable.

Yann Thomas is included in the 23-man squad after recovering from an Achilles injury, while Henry Purdy and Ian Madigan are also listed among the replacements.

Form: Northampton Saints’ 16-20 defeat at home to London Irish in Round 9 of Gallagher Premiership Rugby ended a four-game winning run in all competitions. That defeat was the Saints’ first at home in Premiership Rugby since April. Bristol Bears are undefeated in their last three first team matches whilst their victory at home to Gloucester in Round 9 ended a four-game winless run in Gallagher Premiership Rugby. Bristol’s only away win in the tournament this season came at Exeter in Round 4. Bristol beat Northampton 26-24 at Franklin’s Gardens in round 16 last season but have not won successive matches against The Saints since 2007.

The teams:

Northampton Saints: 15 Harry Mallinder, 14 Tom Collins, 13 Matt Proctor, 12 Rory Hutchinson, 11 Taqele Naiyaravoro, 10 James Grayson, 9 Cobus Reinach, 8 Teimana Harrison (cc), 7 Tom Wood, 6 Mitch Eadie, 5 Alex Moon, 4 Alex Coles, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Mikey Haywood, 1 Alex Waller (cc)
Replacements: 16 James Fish, 17 Ben Franks, 18 Paul Hill, 19 Lewis Bean, 20 Devante Onojaife, 21 Alex Mitchell, 22 Fraser Dingwall, 23 Ahsee Tuala

Bristol Bears: 15 Charles Piutau, 14 Luke Morahan, 13 Piers O’Conor, 12 Sam Bedlow, 11 Alapati Leiua, 10 Callum Sheedy, 9 Harry Randall, 8 Nathan Hughes, 7 Dan Thomas, 6 Steven Luatua (c), 5 Chris Vui, 4 Dave Attwood, 3 John Afoa, 2 Shaun Malton, 1 Jake Woolmore
Replacements: 16 Will Capon, 17 Yann Thomas, 18 Lewis Thiede, 19 Joe Joyce, 20 Jake Heenan, 21 Andy Uren, 22 Ian Madigan, 23 Henry Purdy

Venue: Franklin’s Gardens
Kick-off: 15:00 GMT
Referee: Matthew Carley
Assistant referees: Karl Dickson, Wayne Barnes
Television match official: Graham Hughes