Premiership team news: Can Smith push for England selection?

Premiership team news: Can Smith push for England selection?

Marcus Smith starts for Harlequins in the No 10 jersey
Marcus Smith starts for Harlequins in the No 10 jersey

Marcus Smith starts for Harlequins in the No 10 jersey

All the team news as well as the individuals pushing for Six Nations selection ahead of another exciting weekend of Gallagher Premiership action…

Harlequins vs Sale Sharks (Saturday, 1pm)

Harlequins have named an unchanged starting XV as they go in search of a fourth successive win. Centre Joe Marchant will make his 100th appearance for the club.

Sale scrum-half Will Cliff will make his 200th appearance for the Sharks, who make eight changes. South Africa World Cup winner Lood de Jager is set to make his first appearance for three months off the bench having recovered from shoulder surgery.

Six Nations watch

Marcus Smith must be wondering what else he needs to do to catch the attention of Eddie Jones. The fly-half, who turned 22 on Sunday, is making his 97th Harlequins appearance on the back of scoring 22 points in Quins’ victory over Leicester last time out.

The playmaker is yet to feature at Test level, but will use his battle against once-capped Springbok Robert du Preez to once again showcase his credentials at the Stoop.

Marcus Smith extended his Harlequins contract earlier this month Marcus Smith extended his Harlequins contract earlier this month

Marcus Smith extended his Harlequins contract earlier this month

The Sharks have Ewan Ashman starting in the front row on Saturday, a hooker who has represented Scotland at various age-grades and had a breakthrough season in the 2019 U20 Six Nations where he started in four fixtures.

The 20-year-old was named in Gregor Townsend’s initial 35-man squad for this year’s senior Six Nations, and will want to show he can mix it with the best as he goes up against Wales veteran Scott Baldwin on Saturday.

Harlequins: 15 Mike Brown, 14 Louis Lynagh, 13 Joe Marchant, 12 Andre Esterhuizen, 11 Aaron Morris, 10 Marcus Smith, 9 Danny Care, 1 Joe Marler, 2 Scott Baldwin, 3 Simon Kerrod, 4 Matt Symons, 5 Stephan Lewies (c), 6 Archie White, 7 Will Evans, 8 Alex Dombrandt.

Replacements: 16 Elia Elia, 17 Jordan Els, 18 Wilco Louw, 19 Glen Young, 20 James Chisholm, 21 Martin Landajo, 22 Brett Herron, 23 Luke Northmore.

Sale Sharks: 15 Simon Hammersley, 14 Denny Solomona, 13 Sam James, 12 Luke James, 11 Marland Yarde, 10 Robert du Preez, 9 Will Cliff, 1 Valerey Morozov, 2 Ewan Ashman, 3 Coenie Oosthuizen, 4 Matt Postlethwaite, 5 Josh Beaumont, 6 Jean-Luc du Preez, 7 Jono Ross (c) 8 Daniel du Preez.

Replacements: 16 Curtis Langdon, 17 Bevan Rodd, 18 Will-Griff John, 19 Lood de Jager, 20 Cobus Wiese, 21 Cameron Nield, 22 Raffi Quirke, 23 Connor Doherty.

Exeter Chiefs vs Northampton Saints (Saturday, 3pm)

Scotland captain Stuart Hogg returns from Six Nations duty to start as Exeter’s full-back. Harvey Skinner is picked at fly-half so Chiefs skipper Joe Simmonds is present on the bench. Hooker Jack Yeandle leads the team.

Northampton have picked England full-back George Furbank at fly-half for only the third time in his professional career. Wing Matt Proctor also comes in among five changes.

Six Nations watch

There is pressure mounting on some of the performances of England’s Saracens contingent, with Billy Vunipola not up to his usual standard in the first two rounds of the Six Nations.

Sam Simmonds does not appear to be in the plans of England coach Jones, but if he continues to impress for Exeter, and Vunipola fails to do the same for England, could the Australian have a change of heart?

No 8 Sam Simmonds goes on the run for Exeter Chiefs No 8 Sam Simmonds goes on the run for Exeter Chiefs

No 8 Sam Simmonds goes on the run for Exeter Chiefs

It’s an interesting selection for Furbank who perhaps would have preferred a chance to start at full-back and challenge Elliot Daly for England’s No 15 jersey.

However, with Max Malins taking a bench spot for the national side and able to operate at fly-half or full-back, perhaps this is a chance for Furbank to demonstrate his own versatility.

Exeter Chiefs: 15 Stuart Hogg, 14 Tom O’Flaherty, 13 Tom Hendrickson, 12 Ollie Devoto, 11 Josh Hodge, 10 Harvey Skinner, 9 Jack Maunder, 1 Alec Hepburn, 2 Jack Yeandle (c), 3 Harry Williams, 4 Will Witty, 5 Sam Skinner, 6 Dave Ewers, 7 Richard Capstick, 8 Sam Simmonds.

Replacements: 16 Jack Innard, 17 James Kenny, 18 Marcus Street, 19 Don Armand, 20 Sean Lonsdale, 21 Sam Hidalgo-Clyne, 22 Joe Simmonds, 23 Ian Whitten.

Northampton Saints: 15 Ahsee Tuala, 14 Matt Proctor, 13 Rory Hutchinson, 12 Piers Francis, 11 Ollie Sleightholme, 10 George Furbank, 9 Alex Mitchell, 1 Alex Waller (cc), 2 Sam Matavesi, 3 Ehren Painter, 4 David Ribbans, 5 Api Ratuniyarawa, 6 Nick Isiekwe, 7 Lewis Ludlam (cc), 8 Shaun Adendorff.

Replacements: 16 Reece Marshall, 17 Nick Auterac, 18 Paul Hill, 19 Alex Coles, 20 Tom Wood, 21 Henry Taylor, 22 Harry Mallinder, 23 Taqele Naiyaravoro.

Leicester Tigers vs Wasps (Saturday, 3pm)

Former England prop Dan Cole returns as one of four changes made by Leicester. Jasper Wiese returns at No 8 as part of an all-South Africa back row. Captain Tom Youngs is on the bench.

Lock Will Rowlands returns from Wales duty to start for Wasps. The 2020 runners-up make one other change with Ben Vellacott replacing the injured Sam Wolstenholme at scrum-half.

Six Nations watch

Freddie Steward is an England Under-20 player who was involved in their Six Nations campaign in 2020, and the towering full-back is likely to be in line for senior honours in the years to come.

This year’s Six Nations may be too soon for him, but he’s impressed already in Tigers colours since making his Premiership debut in March 2019.

Freddie Steward in action for Leicester Tigers at Welford Road Freddie Steward in action for Leicester Tigers at Welford Road

Freddie Steward in action for Leicester Tigers at Welford Road

Wasps’ teenage sensation Charlie Atkinson is another one who is unlikely to feature in this year’s Six Nations but whose international ambitions will be realised before too soon.

The 19-year-old has been named in England’s U20 Elite Player Squad this year, on the back of making his Champions Cup debut for Wasps at the end of 2020. Atkinson is someone Jones will be watching closely over the course of this year.

Leicester Tigers: 15 Freddie Steward, 14 Kobus Van Wyk, 13 Matías Moroni, 12 Matt Scott, 11 Kini Murimurivalu, 10 Zack Henry, 9 Richard Wigglesworth (c), 1 Luan de Bruin, 2 Julián Montoya, 3 Dan Cole, 4 Calum Green, 5 Tomás Lavanini, 6 Hanro Liebenberg, 7 Cyle Brink, 8 Jasper Wiese.

Replacements: 16 Tom Youngs, 17 Nephi Leatigaga, 18 Joe Heyes, 19 Harry Wells, 20 Tommy Reffell, 21 Jack Van Poortvliet, 22 Johnny McPhillips, 23 Dan Kelly.

Wasps: 15 Matteo Minozzi, 14 Zach Kibirige, 13 Malakai Fekitoa, 12 Jimmy Gopperth, 11 Josh Bassett, 10 Charlie Atkinson, 9 Ben Vellacott, 1 Tom West, 2 Tommy Taylor, 3 Kieran Brookes, 4 Will Rowlands, 5 James Gaskell, 6 Brad Shields (c), 7 Ben Morris, 8 Tom Willis.

Replacements: 16 Tom Cruse, 17 Ben Harris, 18 Jeff Toomaga-Allen, 19 Levi Douglas, 20 Sione Vailanu, 21 Alex Schwarz, 22 Jacob Umaga, 23 Michael Le Bourgeois.

London Irish vs Bristol Bears (Sunday, 3pm)

Argentina hooker Agustin Creevy drops to London Irish’s bench so Mat Cornish takes his place in the front row. Matt Rogerson is promoted from the bench to starting blindside flanker and captain.

Bristol make seven changes including the return of skipper Steve Luatua. Callum Sheedy slots straight in at fly-half following his return from Wales duty. Mitch Eadie makes his first appearance of the season at number eight.

Six Nations watch

Allan Dell was named in Gregor Townsend’s squad for the Six Nations, but Rory Sutherland started at loosehead and Oli Kebble featured from the bench in rounds one and two.

Dell, who like Kebble was born in South Africa, will hope he can make an impact off the bench for London Irish and play his way into contention ahead of Scotland’s third-round game against France.

Can Callum Sheedy play his way into the Wales No 10 jersey this weekend? Can Callum Sheedy play his way into the Wales No 10 jersey this weekend?

Can Callum Sheedy play his way into the Wales No 10 jersey this weekend?

Sheedy was introduced early in the second half of Wales’ 25-24 victory over Scotland in Edinburgh last weekend, replacing Biggar who was struggling to ignite the Welsh backline.

With Biggar starting at fly-half for Northampton this weekend, and Sheedy doing the same for Bristol, this could be a straight shootout to see who wears the No 10 jersey against England in Cardiff next time out.

London Irish: 15 James Stokes, 14 Ben Loader, 13 Curtis Rona, 12 Theo Brophy Clews, 11 Ollie Hassell-Collins, 10 Paddy Jackson, 9 Ben Meehan, 1 Will Goodrick-Clarke, 2 Matt Cornish, 3 Lovejoy Chawatama, 4 Steve Mafi, 5 George Nott, 6 Matt Rogerson (c), 7 Blair Cowan, 8 Albert Tuisue.

Replacements: 16 Agustin Creevy, 17 Allan Dell, 18 Ollie Hoskins, 19 Rob Simmons, 20 Sean O’Brien, 21 Nick Phipps, 22 Terrence Hepetema, 23 Tom Parton.

Bristol Bears: 15 Charles Piutau; 14 Luke Morahan, 13 Piers O’Conor, 12 Sam Bedlow, 11 Siva Naulago; 10 Callum Sheedy, 9 Andy Uren; 1 Yann Thomas, 2 Will Capon, 3 John Afoa, 4 Dave Attwood, 5 Chris Vui, 6 Steven Luatua (c), 7 Dan Thomas, 8 Mitch Eadie.

Replacements: 16 George Kloska, 17 Jake Woolmore, 18 Jake Armstrong, 19 Ed Holmes, 20 Jake Heenan, 21 Tom Kessell, 22 Ioan Lloyd, 23 Alapati Leiua.

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