Daly returns for bumper weekend of domestic league action

Elliot Daly 13/3/2021
A blockbuster weekend of domestic league action will see a host of Guinness Six Nations stars take centre stage in the Premiership, United Rugby Championship and Top 14.

A blockbuster weekend of domestic league action will see a host of Guinness Six Nations stars take centre stage in the Premiership, United Rugby Championship and Top 14.

Exeter Chiefs and Saracens are both packed with internationals as the two prepare to renew their rivalry at Sandy Park in one of several huge games in the Premiership this weekend.

The top two teams in the Top 14 will also go head-to-head as leaders Toulouse welcome Bordeaux, while Leinster welcome interprovincial rivals Connacht in the URC.

Here’s all the key talking points ahead of this weekend’s action.


Elliot Daly will make his first start since the British & Irish Lions tour in the summer when the England utility back takes to the field for Saracens against Exeter Chiefs.

The 29-year-old had surgery on a stress fracture after returning to the UK from South Africa and missed the whole of England’s Autumn Nations Series campaign as a result.

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But he returns on the wing in one of three changes made by Mark McCall for his side’s visit to Sandy Park, with fellow England international Ben Earl also back in the starting XV.

Alex Lewington’s selection on the other wing to Daly completes the alterations to the team that defeated Sale Sharks last weekend, with Manu Vunipola and Maro Itoje both starting again.

It will be Saracens’ first visit to Sandy Park in two years following their relegation in the 2019/20 season and they will face a Chiefs side that is also full of international class.

Scotland skipper Stuart Hogg starts at full-back while England’s Jack Nowell and Henry Slade join him in the backline, with Sam Simmonds in the pack alongside Scotland lock Sam Skinner.

Elsewhere in the Premiership, Freddie Steward, George Ford and Ben Youngs all start for league leaders Leicester Tigers as they welcome defending champions Harlequins.

Quins are also not short of international talent in their squad as Joe Marler, Marcus Smith and Alex Dombrandt all start for the trip to Mattioli Woods Welford Road on Sunday.

Meanwhile, Welsh wing wizard Louis Rees-Zammit is joined by Chris Harris, Mark Atkinson and Adam Hastings in an all-star Gloucester Rugby backline for the visit of Bristol Bears.


Ireland winger James Lowe and fellow international Garry Ringrose both start for Leinster as the United Rugby Championship leaders look to get back to winning ways.

Leinster’s perfect start to the season was ended by Ulster last time out but the return of Lowe and Ringrose will provide a major boost for Friday night’s clash with Connacht.

Lowe was one of the stars of the Autumn Nations Series campaign for Andy Farrell’s Ireland, scoring the opening try against New Zealand and also dotting down against Japan.

Edinburgh also welcome Benetton to the DAM Health Stadium on Friday night, with a host of Scotland internationals returning as the capital side bid for a fourth consecutive URC win.

Darcy Graham, Hamish Watson, Grant Gilchrist, Jamie Ritchie, Pierre Schoeman and Stuart McInally are all back in the matchday squad, with the first three all starting.

Saturday sees three more games take place, including Ulster’s visit to Ospreys as the Irish province look to keep the pressure up on Leinster after their victory over their rivals.

Jack McGrath makes his return for the visitors after injury while Craig Gilroy is in line to make his 200th appearance for Ulster against an Ospreys team with a couple of international returnees.

Wales duo Gareth Anscombe and Alex Cuthbert both make the squad for the region, with the latter starting on the wing after scoring a try for Wales against Fiji in the Autumn.

Dragons also travel to Glasgow Warriors on Saturday evening, with Scotland internationals Ali Price and Zander Fagerson back in the starting XV for the hosts.


All eyes will be on the Saturday late game in France as Bordeaux Begles welcome league leaders Toulouse for what promises to be an enthralling encounter between the front-runners.

Toulouse managed to remain at the summit with a narrow 18-11 win at home to Brive last weekend before Bordeaux ran in 34 unanswered points to defeat Racing 92 37-14.

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With just two points separating the two sides at the top of the standings, the stage is set for an almighty tussle in Bordeaux with plenty of international talent on show.

Elsewhere, third-placed Montpellier edged out Castres 25-24 last weekend and will be keen to gain ground on the top two with a result against second-from-bottom Perpignan.

Eight points currently separates Montpellier from Bordeaux in second but a try-bonus point win against the visitors would see them keep the pressure on ahead of the late game.

Racing 92’s heavy defeat last weekend leaves them well off the pace and they visit Castres this weekend, with only a point separating the two sides in sixth and seventh.

Lyon sit a further point ahead of Racing 92 in the table and will be looking to bounce back from their defeat to Toulon last time out when they welcome Brive to town this weekend.

Clermont Auvergne also take on Biarritz Olympique and Pau host Toulon on Saturday while the Top 14 action is wrapped up by La Rochelle’s trip to Stade Francais.