• Fri. Feb 26th, 2021

United Hours

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Louis Rees-Zammit is back with Gloucester after scoring three tries in two games for Wales

Wales wing Louis Rees-Zammit is among the Six Nations stars in club action on Friday night as focus shifts back to the Premiership and PRO14.

Four Six Nations returnees will feature at the Rec as Bath face fellow strugglers Gloucester in a Premiership basement battle.

A number of PRO14 players will also be trying to catch the eye of their international coaches when the Dragons host Leinster and Ulster visit Glasgow.

Bath vs Gloucester (7.45pm)

Bath make two changes to the side that started last week’s win over Sale, with Josh Bayliss moving to the second row and Wales forward Taulupe Faletau at blindside flanker.

Josh McNally is unavailable for selection after picking up a minor leg injury during training.

England centre Jonathan Joseph returns to the squad on the bench, having completed a two-week suspension for breaching coronavirus rules.

Scotland centre Chris Harris is back for Gloucester

Scotland centre Chris Harris is back for Gloucester

Gloucester have Louis Rees-Zammit, Chris Harris and Stephen Varney all available from international duty, while Ed Slater will start at lock alongside Alex Craig.

Willi Heinz and Billy Twelvetrees continue their partnership at half-back, with Lewis Ludlow resuming the captaincy in the back row.

George Barton is named among the replacements as he prepares for a first appearance since Boxing Day.

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Taulupe Faletau starts in the Bath back row

Taulupe Faletau starts in the Bath back row

Wales supporters will be watching this West Country derby through their fingers.

Rees-Zammit has been one of the stars of this year’s Six Nations, scoring decisive tries in both of Wales’ wins against Ireland and Scotland.

Faletau, meanwhile, got through a mountain of work in the opening two rounds, making 39 tackles and 20 carries, but the disadvantage of not playing his club rugby in Wales means he must front up for Bath while Wales’ next opponents England enjoy a weekend off.

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James Haskell is part of a new ‘Progressive Rugby’ group which has written to World Rugby to call for reform in how the sport deals with head injuries.

James Haskell is part of a new ‘Progressive Rugby’ group which has written to World Rugby to call for reform in how the sport deals with head injuries.

It is a similar case for Harris and Varney, who are back at Kingsholm after impressive outings for Scotland and Italy respectively.

Wales head coach Wayne Pivac will hope both of his players come through unscathed ahead of England’s visit to Cardiff on February 27.

Pivac could also have an eye on Bath fly-half Rhys Priestland, who won the last of his 50 Wales caps in 2017 but will be back in selection contention next season when he joins Cardiff Blues.

Bath: 15 Tom de Glanville, 14 Semesa Rokodoguni, 13 Max Clark, 12 Josh Matavesi, 11 Will Muir, 10 Rhys Priestland, 9 Ben Spencer (c); 1 Juan Schoeman, 2 Tom Dunn, 3 Christian Judge, 4 Josh Bayliss, 5 Mike Williams, 6 Taulupe Faletau, 7 Miles Reid, 8 Zach Mercer.

Replacements: 16 Jack Walker, 17 Jamie Bhatti, 18 Henry Thomas, 19 Tom Ellis, 20 Ethan Staddon, 21 Will Chudley, 22 Tian Schoeman, 23 Jonathan Joseph.

Gloucester: 15 Jason Woodward, 14 Louis Rees-Zammit, 13 Chris Harris, 12. Tom Seabrook, 11 Ollie Thorley, 10 Billy Twelvetrees, 9 Willi Heinz; 1 Val Rapava-Ruskin, 2 Henry Walker, 3 Fraser Balmain, 4 Ed Slater, 5 Alex Craig, 6 Jordy Reid, 7 Lewis Ludlow (c), 8 Ruan Ackermann.

Replacements: 16 Santiago Socino, 17 Alex Seville, 18 Jamal Ford-Robinson, 19 Ollie Atkins, 20 Freddie Clarke, 21 Stephen Varney, 22 George Barton, 23 Henry Trinder.

Dragons vs Leinster (7.35pm)

Jack Conan makes his 100th Leinster appearance

Jack Conan makes his 100th Leinster appearance

Former Wales U20 centre Aneurin Owen will make his full Dragons debut as Dean Ryan makes five changes to the team that lost to Connacht on February 5.

Owen partners the recalled Jack Dixon in midfield with the fit-again Matthew Screech named in the back row.

Prop Lloyd Fairbrother makes his 100th PRO14 appearance.

There is also a centurion in the Leinster line-up as Jack Conan prepares to make a landmark appearance for the defending champions.

Ireland fly-half Ross Byrne moves to inside centre to accommodate the inclusion of his younger brother Harry at 10.

Michael Bent and Josh Murphy are named in the pack after recovering from injury.

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Harry Byrne was called up by Ireland last weekend

Harry Byrne was called up by Ireland last weekend

Former internationals Brian O’Driscoll and Alan Quinlan are both big fans of Harry Byrne and have called for the 21-year-old to be given a chance with Ireland.

Byrne was called into the Ireland squad as cover for last weekend’s loss to France, where Billy Burns and Ross Byrne were both solid yet unspectacular at fly-half in Johnny Sexton’s absence.

Another assured display by Harry Byrne in Newport won’t escape Andy Farrell’s attention as he attempts to ignite a blunt backline, while Conan will look to force his way into the Ireland back-row conversation.

Competition in the Wales back three is fierce but Jonah Holmes can provide Pivac with a reminder of his talents with a good showing.

Dragons: 15 Jordan Williams, 14 Jonah Holmes, 13 Aneurin Owen, 12 Jack Dixon, 11 Ashton Hewitt, 10 Sam Davies, 9 Rhodri Williams (c); 1 Brok Harris, 2 Richard Hibbard, 3 Lloyd Fairbrother, 4 Joe Davies, 5 Ben Carter, 6 Matthew Screech, 7 Ben Fry, 8 Huw Taylor.

Replacements: 16 Ellis Shipp, 17 Greg Bateman, 18 Chris Coleman, 19 Joe Maksymiw, 20 Dan Baker, 21 Luke Baldwin, 22 Josh Lewis, 23 Connor Edwards.

Leinster: 15 Max O’Reilly, 14 Cian Kelleher, 13 Rory O’Loughlin, 12 Ross Byrne, 11 Dave Kearney, 10 Harry Byrne, 9 Luke McGrath (c); 1 Peter Dooley, 2 James Tracy, 3 Michael Bent, 4 Ross Molony, 5 Ryan Baird, 6 Josh Murphy, 7 Scott Penny, 8 Jack Conan.

Replacements: 16 Dan Sheehan, 17 Marcus Hanan, 18 Tom Clarkson, 19 Devin Toner, 20 Scott Fardy, 21 Rowan Osborne, 22 David Hawkshaw, 23 Jamie Osborne.

Glasgow vs Ulster (7.35pm)

Adam Hastings has recovered from a dislocated shoulder

Adam Hastings has recovered from a dislocated shoulder

Scotland international Adam Hastings returns from injury to make his first Glasgow appearance in four months.

Hastings, who dislocated his shoulder in the Six Nations win away to Wales last October, is one of 12 internationals named in the Warriors’ match-day squad.

Fiji star Leone Nakarawa starts against his future employers after a year-long absence and he is joined in the pack by Oli Kebble and Richie Gray following their release by Scotland.

Alan O'Connor becomes an Ulster centurion

Alan O’Connor becomes an Ulster centurion

Jordi Murphy captains Ulster for the first time while Alan O’Connor and Marty Moore make their 100th and 50th appearances for the province.

John Cooney and Stuart McCloskey return after being released by Ireland while Rob Lyttle starts on the left wing after recovering from injury.

Academy lock Cormac Izuchukwu could make his debut after being named on the bench.

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John Cooney continues to be overlooked by Ireland despite some excellent performances for Ulster

John Cooney continues to be overlooked by Ireland despite some excellent performances for Ulster

Hastings’ return is welcome news for Scotland coach Gregor Townsend after losing Cameron Redpath to injury. The 24-year-old can provide cover for Finn Russell as well as a second playmaker option at 12.

With Zander Fagerson suspended for the remainder of the Six Nations, D’arcy Rae will hope a positive impact off the bench could see him perform a similar role for his country. Richie Gray and Oli Kebble will also look to give Townsend some selection headaches.

Ulster fans remain baffled at John Cooney’s lack of opportunities with Ireland, despite some outstanding displays for his province.

Cooney was called into the Ireland squad last weekend after Conor Murray was ruled out. But with the uncapped Craig Casey providing cover for starting scrum-half Jamison Gibson-Park, it places Cooney fourth in Andy Farrell’s pecking order.

Glasgow Warriors: 15 Huw Jones, 14 Ratu Tagive, 13 Robbie Fergusson, 12 Sam Johnson, 11 Rufus McLean, 10 Adam Hastings, 9 Jamie Dobie; 1 Oli Kebble, 2 Johnny Matthews, 3 Enrique Pieretto, 4 Richie Gray, 5 Leone Nakarawa, 6 Rob Harley, 7 Thomas Gordon, 8 Ryan Wilson (c).

Replacements: 16 Grant Stewart, 17 Aki Seiuli, 18 D’arcy Rae, 19 James Scott, 20 TJ Ioane, 21 Sean Kennedy, 22 Ross Thompson, 23 Ollie Smith.

Ulster: 15 Michael Lowry, 14 Craig Gilroy, 13 James Hume, 12 Stuart McCloskey, 11 Rob Lyttle, 10 Ian Madigan, 9 John Cooney; 1 Eric O’Sullivan, 2 John Andrew, 3 Marty Moore, 4 Alan O’Connor, 5 Kieran Treadwell, 6 Nick Timoney, 7 Jordi Murphy (c), 8 Marcell Coetzee.

Replacements: 16 Adam McBurney, 17 Andrew Warwick, 18 Tom O’Toole, 19 Cormac Izuchukwu, 20 Greg Jones, 21 Alby Mathewson, 22 Stewart Moore, 23 Matt Faddes.

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