Fresh from successive Heineken Champions Cup Pool A wins, runaway Gallagher Premiership leaders Saracens will be strengthened further on Friday, when they bring back fit-again England lock Nick Isiekwe for their domestic fixture at London Irish.
The second-rower hasn’t played for Sarries since June, but director of rugby Mark McCall includes him as one of four changes to the starting line-up from the side who won at Lyon last weekend as the London club bid for their 12th consecutive victory in major tournaments this season.
Three of the alterations are up front, the other two seeing the recall of hooker Tom Woolstencroft and flanker Andy Christie, while in the backs Elliot Daly moves into midfield for his 50th appearance for the club to allow Alex Goode to return at full-back.
Meanwhile, Irish make six changes to the team who lost 34-14 at DHL Stormers last weekend as they seek to recover from back-to-back Pool B defeats in the Heineken Champions Cup.
Prop Oliver Hoskins, lock Api Ratuniyarawa, flanker Juan Martin Gonzalez and No.8 So’otala Fa’aso’o return to the pack, while scrum-half Ben White and centre Will Joseph are recalled to the backs.
The standings after 2 Rounds of the #HeinekenChampionsCup
Did your team 📈?
Did they 📉?
Did they =?
Who is having the most memorable season so far? 🤔 pic.twitter.com/piH4B7wsTs
— Heineken Champions Cup (@ChampionsCup) December 18, 2022
Sale Sharks are the other Heineken Champions Cup side in action on Friday as they aim to return to winning ways after their 45-19 drubbing in Pool B at Stade Toulousain last weekend.
Director of rugby Alex Sanderson makes five changes for the trip to Newcastle Falcons, bringing back hooker Ewan Ashman, flanker Ben Curry and No.8 Daniel du Preez in the forwards, as well as giving centre Ryan Mills his Premiership debut for the club and Luke James his return at full-back.
In the United Rugby Championship, Scotland wing Duhan van der Merwe returns as Edinburgh Rugby head coach Mike Blair also makes five changes for Friday night’s 150th anniversary 1872 Cup tie at Scotstoun Stadium against Glasgow Warriors.
Van der Merwe, who was a late withdrawal through injury from last weekend’s Heineken Champions Cup Pool A win against Castres Olympique, is fit again and joins recalled fly-half Charlie Savala and centre Chris Dean in the starting XV.
Tom Cruse – who played nearly 78 minutes in the victory over Castres – makes his first start at hooker, while academy graduate Connor Boyle starts at openside flanker.
Meanwhile, Ulster Rugby head coach Dan McFarland fields a completely new back row as the Irish province bid to put successive Heineken Champions Cup losses behind them at Connacht Rugby, selecting Nick Timoney at No.8, with David McCann and Marcus Rea either side of him.