Saturday’s Premiership talking points: Manu Tuilagi returns to Leicester

There are four games in the Gallagher Premiership on Saturday as The Stoop welcomes back supporters and Manu Tuilagi returns to Welford Road.

Saracens will attempt to extend a 10-game winning streak against Wasps when they meet at Allianz Park (12.30pm kick-off), before Harlequins host Bath in front of 3,500 fans (2pm).

Tuilagi faces his former side for the first time as Sale Sharks visit Leicester (3pm), while the action concludes at Kingsholm as Gloucester face London Irish (4.30pm).

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Rugby fans return

Paul Gustard has told his Harlequins players to embrace the “privilege and responsibility” of hosting the first Premiership match in front of fans since the coronavirus lockdown.

Harlequins will have 3,500 supporters at The Stoop for Saturday’s game with Bath, as part of the government’s pilot scheme to return fans to sporting contests across the UK.

Head of rugby Gustard admitted Quins must appreciate their fortune in pressing the Premiership’s collective aims to return fans to club matches quickly and safely.

“It’s a privilege and responsibility to be the first club to have crowds back in the stands,” said Gustard.

“We have to understand that and it’s very exciting for us at the same time.

“It’s reflective of the progressive nature of the club, and testament to the work of our staff behind the scenes.”

Former England captain Chris Robshaw will lead a Quins side showing three changes from Sunday’s bonus-point win over Northampton.

Bath’s three-game winning streak was ended by Wasps last Monday and they make five changes, with Cameron Redpath partnering Jonathan Joseph in midfield and Semesa Rokoduguni named on the wing.

Harlequins: 15 Mike Brown, 14 Chris Ashton, 13 Joe Marchant, 12 Ben Tapuai, 11 Nathan Earle; 1 Joe Marler, 2 Scott Baldwin, 3 Simon Kerrod, 4 Matt Symons, 5 Glen Young, 6 Chris Robshaw (c), 7 Will Evans, 8 Alex Dombrandt.

Replacements: 16 Joe Gray, 17 Santiago Garcia Botta, 18 Will Collier, 19 Stephen Lewies, 20 Tom Lawday, 21 Martin Landajo, 22 James Lang, 23 Paul Lasike.

Bath: 15 Anthony Watson, 14 Semesa Rokoduguni, 13 Jonathan Joseph, 12 Cameron Redpath, 11 Ruaridh McConnochie, 10 Rhys Priestland, 9 Ben Spencer; 1 Beno Obano, 2 Tom Dunn, 3 Will Stuart, 4 Elliott Stooke, 5 Charlie Ewels (c), 6 Josh Bayliss, 7 Miles Reid 8 Taulupe Faletau.

Replacements: 16 Jack Walker, 17 Lewis Boyce, 18 Christian Judge, 19 Josh McNally, 20 Tom Ellis, 21 Will Chudley, 22 Josh Matavesi, 23 Tom de Glanville.

A Goode innings

Two players will celebrate significant milestones at Allianz Park as Wasps chase a first season double over Saracens since 2007.

Alex Goode will make his 300th Sarries appearance, the full-back having made his debut 12 years ago.

Goode has gone on to win eight major trophies with the club and becomes only the fourth Saracen to reach the 300 mark.

Meanwhile, Jimmy Gopperth will captain Wasps on his 100th appearance for the club. The Kiwi replaces Jacob Umaga at fly-half.

South Africa centre Juan de Jongh is fit to start for the visitors after hand and hamstring injuries, while academy players Kieran Curran and Will Simmonds could make their Premiership debuts off the bench.

Owen Farrell starts at fly-half for Saracens with Tim Swinson partnering Maro Itoje at lock.

Saracens: 15 Alex Goode, 14 Alex Lewington, 13 Elliot Daly, 12 Brad Barritt, 11 Sean Maitland, 10 Owen Farrell, 9 Aled Davies; 1 Richard Barrington, 2 Jamie George, 3 Vincent Koch, 4 Maro Itoje, 5 Tim Swinson, 6 Mike Rhodes, 7 Jackson Wray, 8 Billy Vunipola.

Replacements: 16 Kapeli Pifeleti, 17 Sam Crean, 18 Alec Clarey, 19 Callum Hunter-Hill, 20 Sean Reffell, 21 Tom Whiteley, 22 Dom Morris, 23 Elliott Obatoyinbo.

Wasps: 15 Rob Miller, 14 Paolo Odogwu, 13 Juan de Jongh, 12 Michael Le Bourgeois, 11 Josh Bassett, 10 Jimmy Gopperth (c), 9 Ben Vellacott; 1 Ben Harris, 2 Tom Cruse, 3 Biyi Alo, 4 Will Rowlands, 5 Tim Cardall, 6 Tom Willis, 7 Ben Morris, 8 Sione Vailanu.

Replacements: 16 Antonio Harris, 17 Simon McIntyre, 18 Jack Owlett, 19 Theo Vukasinovic, 20 Kieran Curran, 21 Sam Wolstenholme, 22 Charlie Atkinson, 23 Will Simonds.

Familiar foe

Manu Tuilagi returns to Welford Road on Saturday, two months after his high-profile departure from Leicester Tigers.

The England centre, who ended his 11-year stay with Leicester after rejecting a 25 per cent wage cut, is named in a powerful Sale line-up.

Tuilagi partners Rohan Janse van Rensburg in midfield while Tom Curry replaces twin brother Ben at openside flanker as Steve Diamond rotates his squad ahead of another round of midweek fixtures.

Coenie Oosthuizen switches across the front row from tighthead to loosehead, packing down alongside Akker van der Merwe and Jake Cooper-Woolley.

Tomas Lavanini and Charlie Clare are the only men to keep their starting berths as Leicester welcome back their big guns.

England quartet Ellis Genge, Dan Cole, Ben Youngs and George Ford all start with Nemani Nadolo named on the wing.

Leicester Tigers: 15 Freddie Steward, 14 David Williams, 13 Jaco Taute, 12 Matt Scott, 11 Nemani Nadolo, 10 George Ford (c), 9 Ben Youngs; 1 Ellis Genge, 2 Charlie Clare, 3 Dan Cole, 4 Tomas Lavanini, 5 Calum Green, 6 Harry Wells, 7 Luke Wallace, 8 Hanro Liebenberg.

Replacements: 16 Jake Kerr, 17 Facundo Gigena, 18 Nephi Leatigaga, 19 Cameron Henderson, 20 Jordan Taufua, 21 Ben White, 22 Zack Henry, 23 Guy Porter.

Sale Sharks: 15 Luke James, 14 Denny Solomona, 13 Manu Tuilagi, 12 Rohan Janse van Rensburg, 11 Marland Yarde, 10 AJ MacGinty, 9 Faf de Klerk; 1 Coenie Oosthuizen, 2 Akker van der Merwe, 3 Jake Cooper-Woolley, 4 Jean-Luc du Preez, 5 Lood De Jager, 6 Jono Ross (c)¸7 Tom Curry, 8 Daniel du Preez.

Replacements: 16 Euan Ashman, 17 Valerey Morozov, 18 Will-Griff John, 19 Cameron Neild, 20 Matt Postlethwaite, 21 Will Cliff, 22 Sam James, 23 Arron Reed.

Gloucester face struggling Exiles

Having snapped a three-game losing streak at Kingsholm against Leicester, Gloucester have an ideal opportunity to claim back-to-back wins when they take on a London Irish side who have lost six on the bounce.

The Cherry and Whites made five changes, Stephen Varney and Lloyd Evans pairing up at half-back while Mark Atkinson starts at centre.

Franco Marais slots into the front row and academy youngster Jack Clement starts at flanker.

Former Argentina captain Agustin Creevy continues at hooker for Irish, with Wallaby Sekope Kepu at prop.

Matt Rogerson steps into a back row also boasting captain Blair Cowan, while Nick Phipps and Paddy Jackson link up at half-back.

Gloucester: 15 Jason Woodward, 14 Ollie Thorley, 13 Chris Harris, 12 Mark Atkinson, 11 Jonny May, 10 Lloyd Evans, 9 Stephen Varney; 1 Val Rapava-Ruskin, 2 Franco Marais, 3 Fraser Balmain, 4 Ed Slater, 5 Matt Garvey, 6 Jack Clement, 7 Lewis Ludlow (c), 8 Jake Polledri.

Replacements: 16 Jack Singleton, 17 Corne Fourie, 18 Jack Stanley, 19 Ruan Ackermann, 20 Jordy Reid, 21 Joe Simpson, 22 Billy Twelvetrees, 23 Louis Rees-Zammit.

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