Saints hand debuts to Lions duo
September 6, 2013
George North starts for the Saints © Getty Images
The wait is finally over. On Friday evening the Newcastle Falcons host Bath Rugby at Kingston Park in what will be the first match of the 2013-14 Aviva Premiership season. The attention then turns to Twickenham on Saturday where four of London's sides play in back-to-back clashes with the weekend's action concluding in Leicester with the champions hosting Worcester Warriors at Welford Road.
Ahead of the weekend's action, ESPNscrum gives a run-down of all the team news.
Newcastle Falcons v Bath RugbyKingston Park, Friday - 1945 BST
The Falcons have handed debuts to six of their summer signings with former Scotland internationals Mike Blair and Phil Godman forming a new-look partnership at half-back. Ex-Munster back Danny Barnes gets the nod in the centres. In the pack, Franck Montanella starts at loosehead with Dom Barrow and Andy Saull coming into the back-row. Ally Hogg skippers the side in Will Welch's absence.
Bath have given debuts to five of their summer signings. Ex-Tigers fly-half George Ford is handed the fly-half reigns while ex-London Irish flyer Anthony Watson starts at fullback. He is joined in the backs by Jonathan Joseph, who played alongside Watson at the Exiles, while starts are also handed to Matt Garvey at blindside and Leroy Houston at No.8. Gavin Henson is named on the bench alongside fellow new recruits Micky Young and Alafoti Fa'osiliva.
Prediction: Bath by three
London Irish v SaracensTwickenham, Saturday - 1400
Billy Vunipola starts at blindside for Saracens © Getty Images
Tomas O'Leary captains London Irish and lines up alongside Ian Humphreys at half-back for the Exiles. Matt Parr, David Paice and Halani Aulika make up the front row while Nic Rouse partners Bryn Evans in the second row and Jon Fisher, Kieran Low and Ofisa Treviranus will play together in the back row. Eamonn Sheridan and Guy Armitage form the centre combination with England's Marland Yarde joining Sailosi Tagicakibau and Topsy Ojo in the back three.
Saracens hand Billy Vunipola his debut at blindside with Lions Matt Stevens, Owen Farrell and Brad Barritt also in the starting line-up. Mako Vunipola is named among the replacements but there is no place for summer signing James Johnston. Steve Borthwick skippers the side with Jacques Burger named at openside.
Prediction: Saracens by 15
Gloucester v Sale SharksKingsholm, Saturday - 1500
England openside Matt Kvesic starts for Gloucester after his summer move from Worcester and features in a backline alongside Ben Morgan and Tongan international Sione Kalamafoni in a side captained by Tom Savage. James Simpson-Daniel and Rupert Harden both return to the side after overcoming their respective injuries while new signings Dan George and Travis Knoyle are named among the replacements.
Sale boss Steve Diamond gives five of his close season signings debuts in the starting line up with Phil McKenzie, Tom Arscott, Jonathan Mills, Michael Paterson and Andy Forsyth all starting. There's no place for Danny Cipriani who is not named in the matchday 23 with new recruit Joe Ford named on the bench alongside ex-London Welsh lock Kirill Kulemin.
Alex Corbisiero will make his Saints debut © Getty Images
Prediction: Gloucester by seven
Northampton Saints v Exeter ChiefsFranklin's Gardens, Saturday - 1500
Jim Mallinder starts his new Lions George North and Alex Corbisiero but Kahn Fotauli'i will have to be content with a spot on the bench. Sam Dickinson will also make his debut for the Saints having missed last season through injury. Elsewhere, the team has a familiar look with England's Dylan Hartley, Courtney Lawes, Tom Wood and Ben Foden all starting.
Exeter have handed out just one debut with Tom James taking his spot on the flanks. Dean Mumm skippers the Chiefs for the first time in the Premiership while Dave Ewers is named at No.8. Luke Arscott is sidelined, so Phil Dollman takes over at full-back in his absence. On the bench, centre Sam Hill is included in a Premiership squad for the first time while Dave Lewis is also named after moving to the club from Gloucester.
Prediction: Saints by two
London Wasps v HarlequinsTwickenham, Saturday - 1630
Wasps are without skipper Chris Bell who has an infection so Sam Jones captains the side. Andy Goode, Matt Mullan, Jake Cooper-Woolley, Guy Thompson and Ed Jackson will all make their debuts for Dai Young's side. Andrea Masi fills the fullback shirt with Christian Wade and Tom Varndell on the wings. Charlie Hayter and Ben Jacobs are the centre pairing, while Goode and Joe Simpson make up the half backs. Mullan packs down with Tom Lindsay and youngster Cooper-Woolley in the front-row with Joe Launchbury and Tom Palmer forming the partnership in the locks. Jones skippers the side on the blindside with Jackson and Thompson completing the back-row.
Paul Sackey starts for Harlequins © Getty Images
Harlequins hand Paul Sackey his debut with academy member George Merrick also playing his first game for the senior side after being named in the second-row. In the backs, Mike Brown starts at fullback with Ugo Monye on the left wing. George Lowe is named in the centres with Jordan Turner-Hall, while Danny Care and Nick Evans complete the back line.Will Collier starts at tight head prop with Joe Gray and Joe Marler forming the front row. George Robson partners Merrick in the second row, while Luke Wallace, Nick Easter and captain Chris Robshaw make up the back row. Paul Doran-Jones is named on the bench but there is no place for Nick Kennedy who is out until November with a knee injury.
Prediction: Wasps by three
Leicester Tigers v Worcester WarriorsWelford Road, Sunday - 1400
The Tigers call on all six of their British & Irish Lions in the matchday squad with Tom Youngs, Dan Cole, Geoff Parling and Tom Croft all included in the starting line-up, with Ben Youngs and Manu Tuilagi on the bench. With Toby Flood out injured, Louis Deacon captains the side with Richard Cockerill giving David Mele and Ryan Lamb their first Tigers appearances. Fellow new recruits Owen Williams and Neil Briggs are named on the bench.
Worcester boss Dean Ryan has handed out five debuts with skipper Jonathan Thomas starting at blindside. Ignacio Mieres Jeremy Su'a, Mike Williams and Jeremy Becasseau all start while Ravai Fatiaki takes his place in the centres having missed much of last season through injury. He will be partnered in midfield by fellow Fijian Josh Matavesi, with David Lemi, Josh Drauniniu and Chris Pennell completing the backline. John Andress lines-up alongside Ed Shervington and Becasseau in the front row with Dean Schofield partnering Williams at lock. Sam Betty and Semisi Taulava complete the back row
Prediction: Tigers by 15
Will it be another season of success for Leicester? © Getty Images
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