2017 British and Irish Lions official squad

Forwards:

Rory Best (Ireland)

Dan Cole (England)

Taulupe Faletau (Wales)

Tadhg Furlong (Ireland)

Jamie George (England)

Iain Henderson (Ireland)

Maro Itoje (England)

Alun Wyn Jones (Wales)

George Kruis (England)

Courtney Lawes (England)

Joe Marler (England)

Jack McGrath (Ireland)

Ross Moriarty (Wales)

Sean O’Brien (Ireland)

Peter O’Mahony (Ireland)

Ken Owens (Wales)

Kyle Sinckler (England)

CJ Stander (Ireland)

Justin Tipuric (Wales)

Billy Vunipola (England)

Mako Vunipola (England)

Sam Warburton (Wales)

Backs:

Dan Biggar (Wales)

Elliot Daly (England),

Jonathan Davies (Wales),

Owen Farrell (England),

Leigh Halfpenny (Wales),

Robbie Henshaw (Ireland)

Stuart Hogg (Scotland)

Jonathan Joseph (England)

Conor Murray (Ireland)

George North (Wales)

Jack Nowell (England)

Jared Payne (Ireland)

Jonathan Sexton (Ireland)

Tommy Seymour (Scotland)

Ben Te’o (England)

Anthony Watson (England)

Rhys Webb (Wales)

Liam Williams (Wales)

Ben Youngs (England)

Captain: Sam Warburton

My England squad to tour Argentina

Loosehead: Genge, A Waller, E Waller

Hooker: Thacker, Youngs, Hartley

Tighthead: Hill, Collier, D Wilson

Locks: Kitchener, Barrow, Parling, Attwood, Day

Loose forwards: M.Williams, Robshaw, W.Evans, Waldrom, Hughes, Harrison

Scrum Half: Robson, Wigglesworth, Care

Fly Half: F.Burns, Slade

Wingers: Rokoduguni, Woodburn, Haley, May, Solomona

Centres: Mallinder, Teo, Burrell, Purdy, Devoto

Full Back: Brown, Goode, Foden

 

My 37 man Lions squad

Loosehead: Marler, M.Vunipola, McGrath

Hooker: Best, George, Owens

Tighthead: Cole, Furlong, Sinkler

Locks: J Gray, Launchbury, Kruis, Lawes, AW Jones

Loose forwards: Falatau, Haskell, Stander, B.Vunipola, Itoje, Warburton, Barclay

Scrum Half: Youngs, Murray, Webb

Fly Half: Ford, Sexton

Wingers:  Daly, North, Seymour, Nowell, Watson

Centres: Joseph, Farrell, Henshaw, Davies

Full Back: L.Williams, Hogg
Reserves: O Mahony, Visser, Teo, Roberts

The Clash preview: Bath vs Tigers

Saturday kicks of with ‘The Clash’, the first home match which Bath have held at Twickenham.

It is a massive game for both sides, in particular Bath who relinquished their top 4 place two weeks ago when they lost to Sarries and Tigers beat Saints.

It is also a big occasion for both starting fly-halves who will swap shirts next season, Ford to Tigers and Burns to Bath. It is sure to be a highly competitive area in this match with both teams expected to play expansive attacking rugby, the fly-halves will be essential.

This is a must win game for Bath as they have the harder run-in, lose this and Tigers are favourites for that final top 4 place

Bath: Watson; Rokoduguni, Joseph, Tapuai, Banahan; Ford (co-capt), Fotuali’i; Catt, Batty, Palma-Newport, Ewels, Stooke, Ellis, Louw (co-capt), Faletau

Replacements: Brooker, Obano, Knight, Denton, Mercer, Cook, Priestland, Homer.

Leicester: Veainu; Thompstone, Tait, Mermoz, Pietersen; Burns, B Youngs; Genge, T Youngs (c), Cole, Barrow, Kitchener, Fitzgerald, O’Connor, Hamilton

Replacements: McGuigan, Rizzo, Balmain, Williams, Thacker, White, Williams, Roberts.

Referee: J P Doyle

Prediction- Tigers win

Champions Cup Quarter Finals are upon us!

The Champions cup is down to the last eight with the teams fighting it out for a place in the Semi-finals this weekend.

There are two Matches on Saturday starting with Leinster vs Wasps at 15:15. This match is shown live on BTSport 2. This match is expected to be a tight one, which is more than can be said for last years fixtures in which Wasps thrashed Leinster both times.

Prediction: Leinster win

The second match on Saturday is Munster vs Stade Toulousain at 17:45. This is a match between two Giants of European rugby. Expect this to be another close one but with Munster on home turf it will be hard for the French visitors to come away with the victory.

Prediction: Munster win

The other two games are on Sunday. The first of these is between Saracens and Glasgow at 13:00. Both teams have been on fire this season, however, both have benefitted from their artificial pitches. This weekend though neither team has that advantage as they are both used to these pitches. I expect this to be a high scoring, high intensity affair, a game great for the Neutral.

Prediction: Glasgow win

The final game of the weekend is between Clermont and Toulon at 15:15 (UK time) live on BTSport 2. This will be another crunch clash between two sides who meet each other in the Top 14.

Prediction: Clermont win

Aviva Premiership round 18 preview

After a two week siesta the Aviva premiership is back with some blockbuster matches!

This weekend’s action kicks off with a trip to Ashton Gate to see strugglers Bristol take on Gloucester.

Bristol will be looking to help their chances of staying up by beating a Gloucester side which is struggling for consistency this season.

Henry Trinder makes his first start for Gloucester in 11 months due to injury. Bristol however are without Varndell (toe) and Siale Piutau (knee).

Bristol: Woodward; Wallace, Hurrell, Pisi, Lemi; Searle, Mathewson; Bevington, Jones, Cortes, Phillips, Sorenson, Jeffries, Lam, Eadie.

Replacements: Crumpton, O’Connell, Ford-Robinson, Crane, Fenton-Wells, Williams, Tovey, Arscott.

Gloucester: Marshall; May, Trinder, Symons, Halaifonua; Burns, Heinz (capt); McAllister, Hibbard, Hohneck; Savage, Thrush; Kalamafoni, Rowan, Morgan.

Replacements: Matu’u, Thomas, Doran-Jones, Denton, Ludlow, Braley, Twelvetrees, Sharples.

Referee: J P Doyle

Prediction: Gloucester win

 

Saturday features three matches including the East Midlands Derby.

Northampton host Leicester Tigers in a match that never disappoints.

Both teams have their internationals back with Hartley, Lawes, Wood, Picamoles, North returning for the Saints. Tigers make 11 changes to their starting XV which sees the return of internationals Ben Youngs and Dan Cole.

Leicester: Veainu; Thompstone, Tait, Mermoz, Pietersen; Burns, B Youngs; Genge, T Youngs (capt), Cole, Barrow, Kitchener, Fitzgerald, O’Connor, Hamilton.

Replacements: McGuigan, Rizzo, Cilliers, M Williams, McCaffrey, White, O Williams, Roberts.

Northampton: Tuala; Foden, Tuitavake, Mallinder, North; Myler, Groom; Waller, Hartley, Brookes, Lawes, Day, Wood (capt), Clark, Picamoles.

Replacements: Haywood, Waller, Hill, Gibson, Harrison, Dickson Burrell, Pisi.

Referee: Greg Garner Kick off- 15:00

Prediction: Tigers win

The second game on Saturday is between Exeter and Sale.

Exeter are continuing their fight for a home semi-final against tenth placed Sharks.

Exeter see the return of Jack Nowell from the Six Nations and he comes in for James Short who drops to the bench.

Solomona continues on the wing for the Sharks to add flare to their backs.

Exeter: Dollman; Nowell, Whitten, Devoto, Woodburn; Slade, Townsend; Moon, Cowan-Dickie, Williams, Lees, Parling, Horstmann, Armand (capt), Waldrom.

Replacements: Yeandle, Rimmer, Francis, J Hill, S Simmonds, Maunder, J Simmonds, Short.

Sale: Haley; Solomona, James, Jennings, McGuigan; MacGinty, Phillips; Harrison, Webber, Aulika, Evans, Ostrikov, Neild, T Curry, Beamont (capt).

Replacements: B Curry, Flynn, Longbottom, Nott, Pearce, Stringer, Bedlow, Charnley.

Referee: Craig Maxwell-Keys       Kick off: 15:00

Prediction: Exeter Win

The final game on Saturday is Harlequins vs Newcastle.

This clash of Seventh plays Ninth may seem like one to avoid for a Neutral but a loss for Quins sees their play-off hopes dwindle whilst Newcastle who are having their best season for a while will be looking to secure a mid-table finish.

Quins see the return of internationals Joe Marler, Danny Care, Tim Visser and Mike Brown in a much needed boost.

Newcastle have made one change bringing in Scott Lawson at hooker as they look for their first win at the stoop for 17 years.

Harlequins: Brown; Yarde, Marchant, Roberts, Visser; Evans, Care; Marler, Buchanan, Collier, Merrick, Horwill, Robshaw, Ward (capt), Luamanu.

Replacements: Gray, Lambert, Sinckler, Matthews, Clifford, Mulchrone, Swiel, Alofa.

Newcastle: Tait; Goneva, Waldouck, Socino, Sinoti; Hodgson, Takulua; Vickers, Lawson, Welsh, Green, Wilson, Chick, Welch (capt.), Latu.

Replacements: Sowrey, Harris, Wilson, Olmstead, Hogg, Young, Delany, Harris.

Referee: Tom Foley    Kick off: 15:00

Prediction: Harlequins win

Sunday sees two huge fixtures kicking off with Wasps vs Worcester.

Worcester will be looking to capitalise on Bristol’s loss on Friday Night to help their chances of staying up. Wasps will be looking to all but secure their spot in the play offs with a bonus point win.

Wasps: Beale; Wade, Leiua, Gopperth, Le Roux; Cipriani, Robson; McIntyre, Johnson (capt), Moore, Rowlands, Myall, Haskell, Young, Rieder.

Replacements: Cruse, Mullan, Cooper-Woolley, Symons, Thompson, Simpson, Macken, Bassett.

Worcester: Pennell; Heem, Olivier, Willison, Adams; Mills, Hougaard; Rapava Ruskin, Taufete’e, Schonert, O’Callaghan (capt), Spencer, Vui, Lewis, Mama.

Replacements: Bregvadze, Bower, Alo, Dowson, Potgieter, Baldwin, Lamb, Hammond.

Referee: Luke Pearce    Kick off: 14:30

Prediction: Wasps win

The final game of the weekend is Saracens vs Bath.

Saracens will be looking to regain their spot in the top two which was taken by Exeter during the Six Nations period. Bath need a win as they have the Leicester Tigers breathing down their necks.

Both sides receive massive boosts with their internationals returning.

Saracens: Goode; Ashton, Bosch, Barritt, Maitland; Farrell, Wigglesworth; M Vunipola, George, Figallo, Itoje, Hamilton, Rhodes, Wray, B Vunipola.

Replacements: Brits, Lamositele, Koch, Brown, Conlon, H Taylor, Lozowski, D Taylor.

Bath: Watson; Rokoduguni, Joseph, Tapuai, Banahan; Ford, Fotuali’i; Catt, Batty, Lahiff, Ewels, Caharteris, Ellis, Louw, Faletau.

Replacements: Brooker, Obano, Palmer-Newport, Stooke, Grant, Cook, Hastings, Wilson.

Referee: Wayne Barnes

Prediction: Saracens win

 

Leicester Tigers Club statement: New Head Coach

Leicester Tigers are delighted to announce that Matt O’Connor is to return to the club as head coach.
O’Connor won three Premiership titles in his previous spell with the Tigers up to 2013 and has subsequently worked with Leinster, Queensland Reds and Tonga.

He will begin his new role at Leicester in early April, subject to visa.

Leicester Tigers club chairman Peter Tom CBE said: “We are delighted that Matt O’Connor has accepted an offer to return to Welford Road.

“The club has conducted an exhaustive search to find who we feel is the right person to take the team forward and this brought up the names of a number of potentially very good coaches. One of the most significant factors in our deliberations was experience of the Premiership and what it takes to win the competition.

“Matt has that experience as head coach during a successful period which brought three league titles, an Anglo-Welsh Cup and the club’s most recent appearance in the European Cup Final. The team also topped the try-scoring figures in the Premiership four times in that five-year period with Matt in charge of the attack.”

Aaron Mauger, the current head coach, will leave the club after this Saturday’s Aviva Premiership fixture against Northampton Saints.

Former centre Mauger returned to Welford Road as head coach at the start of 2015/16 season, a campaign which included appearances in the semi-finals of both the Aviva Premiership and European Cup.

Tigers remain in the fight for places in the Aviva Premiership semi-finals this season and have just won the Anglo-Welsh Cup with Mauger in interim charge of team affairs.

Chairman Peter Tom added: “While preparing to welcome Matt, we are also disappointed to lose Aaron.

“Matt’s strengths are in his work with players on the training pitch and we are making changes to our organisational structure to enable him to focus solely on the success of the team.

“We thank Aaron for his commitment to the club over the last two seasons as head coach and especially in his time in interim charge of team affairs in recent months. We wish him well for the future.”

Former Australia international centre O’Connor worked as assistant coach with the Brumbies and Australia ‘A’ before joining Leicester in the summer of 2008, initially as backs coach under Heyneke Meyer and then as head coach with Richard Cockerill.

In his time at the club, Tigers won Premiership titles in 2009, 2010 and 2013, the Anglo-Welsh Cup in 2012 and reached the 2009 European Cup Final.

After leaving Welford Road in 2013 to become head coach at Leinster, O’Connor led them to the Celtic League title in his first season and reached the semi-finals of the Champions Cup a year later.

He became attack coach and then co-head coach at Super Rugby side Queensland Reds and assistant coach with Tonga as they recorded three wins out of three on their European tour last autumn.

Tigers club captain Tom Youngs said: “Matt has a good record in the Premiership and had a lot of success in his previous spell here. We look forward to working with him again when he arrives next month.

“At the same time, it is disappointing that Mage is leaving the club. He’s a good man and a good rugby man who has worked very hard as head coach over the last couple of seasons and goes with our best wishes.”