International stars boost Anglo-Welsh
January 28, 2010
David Seymour will hope for more plaudits on his Sale return © Getty Images
With European competition on the back-burner and the Six Nations just around the corner, the latest round of the Anglo-Welsh Cup kicks off this weekend.
The Ospreys are the only side without a victory in Pool 1 and face their Welsh rivals the Dragons at Rodney Parade on Friday. The Dragons will be up against a side boasting both Shane Williams and Adam Jones after the Lions duo were released from the Wales squad to get some added game-time ahead of the Six Nations. They are joined by youngsters Tom Prydie and Kristian Phillips, also released by Warren Gatland. Prydie starts on the bench, while there is a return to the second-row for Wales lock Ian Evans.
Jason Tovey has been switched from his usual fullback berth to fly-half for the Dragons, who also welcome back Dan Lydiate from Wales duty on the replacements bench.
Leicester are a point behind Sale at the top of Pool 1 and take on Bath at Welford Road on Friday. Aaron Mauger leads the Tigers against their old rivals, with Sam Vesty and Harry Ellis continuing their return from injury at halfback. The England management will be keeping a close eye on tight-head Julian White, who starts after a lengthy layoff.
Joe Maddock skippers the visitors, who have a dual-kicking option in midfield as Nicky Little starts at fly-half and Ryan Davis at inside-centre.
Sale face unbeaten Pool 4 leaders Northampton at Edgeley Park. The Saints have named a strong side for the game, with Ignacio Fernandez Lobbe wearing the captain's armband in place of Dylan Hartley, who is on duty with England. Scottish duo Euan Murray and Scott Gray both start in the pack while Chris Ashton starts on the wing after being released from the England squad. Bruce Reihana is named at fullback, while Stephen Myler is in at fly-half.
There are two welcome returns for Sale as David Seymour and Jack Forster return to the pack. Welsh prop Eifion Roberts also starts after training with the national team this week.
Friday's action rounds off with Saracens taking on Leeds at Headingley. Sarries hand a debut to Namibian signing Jacques Burger, who starts in the back-row along with skipper Wikus van Heerden. Derick Hougaard is named at fly-half and is partnered by Moses Rauluni.
Worcester are in with a shout in Pool 3 and face near rivals Gloucester at Kingsholm to kick-off Saturday's action. New signing Chris Cracknell is set for a debut in the back-row for the Warriors. Chris Latham and Sam Tuitupou return to the back line, while Chris Pennell is named on the wing after starting at fullback against Montpellier last week.
Wasps lead Pool 3 and face the table-topping Scarlets at Adams Park this weekend. The Scarlets will be aiming to keep their fight going on three fronts after booking their place in the quarter-finals of the European Challenge Cup. Lions hooker Matthew Rees returns to action for the visitors after being released by Wales while Wasps welcome Joe Worsley into the back-row after an injury layoff. John Hart starts at No.8 and skippers the home side.
There will be a dress rehearsal for a Challenge Cup last-eight tie at the Cardiff City Stadium on Sunday, where the Blues host Newcastle. The reigning champions Blues are third, behind Harlequins and Wasps, in Pool 3 while the Falcons are yet to pick up a point. The home side have named an inexperienced XV but are boosted by the return of Maama Molitika in the back-row following a long injury absence where he is joined there by Wales squad member Sam Warburton. Scottish centre Michael Tait earns a first start for the Falcons while England U20s start Tom Catterick is named at fullback.
The round concludes with a London derby as Harlequins travel to face London Irish at the Madejski Stadium. The Exiles are two points behind the Scarlets in Pool 2 and will need to bounce back after slipping out of the Heineken Cup last weekend. Nick Evans returns to fly-half for Quins with Jordan Turner-Hall continuing his comeback from injury in the centre. Attack coach Mike Catt starts in the centre for the Exiles and Ryan Lamb returns at fly-half after sitting out their Twickenham draw with Leinster.
"Like the Treaty of Versailles, despite all the promises, the new Participation Agreement is certainly not the final solution." John Taylor writes
"We know where we are going and we know where we want to get but how long that will take is anybody's guess." David Humphreys on his plans for Gloucester
Jim Mallinder and Justin Burnell were sat on the same top table, but in different circumstances. Tom Hamilton reports on the Aviva Premiership season launch
Tom Hamilton reports back from the launch of the Guinness PRO12 where there is a renewed sense of optimism with all of the off-field changes to the league