Aviva A League: Preview & Team News

The latest installment of the Aviva A League takes place tonight, with all three of the remaining unbeaten teams, Harlequins, Saracens, and Gloucester, all taking part this evening.


Each of the sides named so far for the five fixtures feature plenty of young players, including a number of current school players, some of whom were in U18 Premiership action over the weekend.


The action all kicks off at 19.00 at Kingston Park, where Newcastle Falcons host Leicester Tigers. The Tigers are yet to name their side but Newcastle have named an exciting team, which features the now out of retirement Andy Goode at fly half. England U20 international Zach Kibirige is on the wing, with fellow U20 star Will Witty on the bench alongside one of last year’s England U18 captains, Callum Chick.


Originally there were six games this evening, however Northampton Wanderers’ home tie against Worcester Cavaliers has had to be postponed due to a waterlogged pitch, meaning that the only other game in the Northern Conference this evening sees Sale Jets welcome the unbeaten and top of the table Gloucester to Heywood Road.


Sale are led by openside Andy Hughes and include a number of talented youngsters, including last year’s England U20 scrum half James Mitchell, as well as Ciaran Parker at tighhead and George Nott in the second row.


Gloucester are absolutely packed with youthful talent, in their back three they include two of last year’s schools rugby starlets in Hartpury College leaver Mat Protheroe and Cheltenham College leaver Ollie Thorley. Former England U20 skipper Callum Braley is at scrum half alongside former Dean Close outside half Lloyd Evans. On the bench two stars from the U18s victory over Newcastle this weekend, which put Gloucester’s U18 side ten points clear in that league, Ciaran Knight and Alex Craig are both included.


In the Southern Conference third placed Exeter Braves host unbeaten Harlequins, who have four wins from their four games and top the table.


Exeter include last year’s England U18 skipper and Blundell’s leaver Hack Maunder at scrum half, with England U20 star Sam Skinner on the blindside flank. The bench includes young stars such as Jack Innard, Matt Elliet, and Pete Laverick.


Harlequins, as ever, have plenty of youth in their team. U18 internationals Sam Ashland-Robinson and Robbie Nairn are on the wings, with double World U20 Champions Harry Sloan in the centres. Former John Fisher man Kieran Treadwell starts in the second row, with former Whitgift man Stan South moving form his usual second row to the blindside flank, while Epsom College leaver Archie White starts at number 8.


On the bench there are plenty of recent schoolboys including former Wellington College prop Seb Adeniran-Olule and Whitgift number 8 Henry Cheeseman, while last year’s Bromsgrove captain Luke White covers fly half. Cranleigh star Dino Lamb-Cona is once again on the bench too.


Saracens Storm are also unbeaten, but having only played three game, they sit behind Harlequins in second place. They host a Bath United side who have been struggling for wins due to having consistently opted for one of the most youthful teams in the league, though they did pick up a win last time out against Bristol.


Saracens have picked a very young and exciting backline, scrum half Ben Spencer almost qualifies as an old hand compared to some. Felsted leaver Max Malins starts at fly half, the England U20 back, a star with England U18 last year, is equally at home in the ten shirt as he is with either twelve or fifteen on his back.


Outside him he has two former U20 World Championship winners, with Nick Tompkins at outside centre and Nathan Earle on the wing, while on the other wing Whitgift School leaver Matt Gallagher has another run out.


The pack looks more experienced, but on the bench there is plenty of youth and vigour. Tom Whiteley, Dom Morris, and Aaron Morris, could certainly change the game in the backline, while in the pack reserves Tonbridge School number 8 Ben Earl gets another run out. England U20 prop Biyi Alo is present, as ever, while Hayden Thompson-Stringer, a World U20 Champion as a number 8/blindside flanker, continues his transformation into a front row beast as he covers the tighthead slot.


Bath once again opt for bags of youth, Millfield leavers Darren Atkins and Adam Hastings are at full back and fly half respectively, with former Sherborne star and England U20 scrum half Will Homer also starting. In the centres former Wellington College man Brett Herron starts alongside England U20’s former Bryanston man, Max Clark.


Up front the double Schools Cup winner with Dulwich College, Beno Obano, has another run out at looshead, with two school leavers in Syd Blackmore and Zach Mercer in the back row once again.


On the bench schools leavers Dan Frost and Jack Edmondson are named, along with current schoolboy Owen Waters and former Millfield pupil and current Bath University student, James Catlin.


The final game in the Southern Conference sees Bristol United travel to Braywick Road to face Wasps. Speaking ahead of the game Wasps coach Matt Davies said:


“It is great to have so many senior players involved in the game, looking to put in a performance to show Dai Young that they should be involved in the first team.”


“Meanwhile it is an opportunity for our Academy players to play alongside seasoned pro players and the experience they will gain is invaluable.”


The balance of senior and academy he mentions is certainly evident, with the likes of Sailosi Tagicakibau starting. Fro a youth perspective, Wasps have really gone for it. England U20 flyer Piers O’Connor starts at full back, with a current schoolboy, Connor Eastgate, starting at outside half. In the pack there are more schoolboys in Jack Willis and Abingdon’s Jack Holford.


The bench also looks young, though a few youngsters are still 50/50 shots as to who is on the bench, one who will certainly be there though is Wellington College leaver Connor Dolan.


Bristol United meanwhile pick their usual mix of Academy players, a few senior men, and a few guest stars from local clubs and Universities. Former Millfield man Callum Sheedy starts at fly half once again, with ex Filton College star Auguy Slowick once again at full back.


Sam Jeffries of Bristol University starts in the back row, with another student, Bath’s Jack Davies, set to come on in the loose forward trio too. Cambridge University’s David Spellman is also on the bench, while Millfield School’s club captain, Josh Barton, is the replacement scrum half.


As ever, we should be in for a great night of A League action!


Aviva A League Fixtures:


Newcastle Falcons A v Leicester Tigers A – 19.00, Kingston Park

Exeter Braves v Harlequins A – 19.30, Sandy Park

Northampton Wanderers v Worcester Cavaliers – Postponed, waterlogged pitch

Sale Jets v Gloucester United – 19.30, Heywood Road

Saracens Storm v Bath United – 19.30, Allianz Park

Wasps A v Bristol United – 19.30, Braywick Road


Team News:


Newcastle Falcons A v Leicester Tigers A


Newcastle Falcons A

15 Brett Connon, 14 Giamba Venditti, 13 Tom Penny, 12 Tom Catterick, 11 Zach Kibirige, 10 Andy Goode, 9 Ruaridh Dawson, 1 Ben Harris, 2 Rob Hawkins, 3 Alex Rogers, 4 Calum Green, 5 Mouritz Botha, 6 Richard Mayhew (c) 7 Daniel Temm, 8 Todd Clever.

Replacements: 16 Santiago Socino, 17 Eric Fry, 18 Andrew Foster, 19 Will Witty, 20 Callum Chick, 21 Jamie Booth, 22 Adam Redman, 23 Dan Marshall.

Leicester Tigers A – TBA


Exeter Braves v Harlequins A


Exeter Braves

15 Chrysander Botha 14 Byron McGuigan 13 Max Bodilly 12 Josh Jones 11 Matt Jess 10 Joe Simmonds 9 Jack Maunder 1 Moray Low 2 Shaun Malton 3 Alex Brown 4 Jerry Sexton 5 Ed Holmes 6 Sam Skinner 7 Sam Simmonds 8 Kai Horstmann (c).

Replacements 16 Jack Innard 17 Brett Sturgess 18 Harry Williams 19 Matt Elliet 20 Dan Swain 21 Haydn Thomas 22 Pete Laverick 23 Harrison Cully.


Harlequins A 

1 Owen Evans 2 Joe Gray 3 Will Collier 4 George Merrick 5 Kieran Treadwell 6 Stan South 7 Victor Keunan 8 Archie White 9 Karl Dickson 10 Ben Botica 11 Sam Aspland-Robinson 12 Harry Sloan 13 Matt Hopper (c) 14 Robbie Nairn 15 Tim Swiel.

Replacements: 16 Rob Buchanan 17 Seb Adeniran-Olule 18 Kyle Sinckler 19 Dino Lamb-Cona 20 Henry Cheeseman 21 Tito Tebaldi 22 Luke White 23 Winston Stanley.


Sale Jets v Gloucester United


Sale Jets

15. Tim Jeffers, 14. John O’Donnell, 13. Johnny Leota, 12. Nick Macleod, 11. Tom Brady, 10. Tom Morton, 9. James Mitchell. 1. James Flynn, 2. Neil Briggs, 3. Ciaran Parker, 4. George Nott, 5. Tom Sanders, 6. Matt Rogerson, 7. Andy Hughes (c), 8. Viliami Fihaki.

Replacements: 16. Jake Pope, 17. Ted Stagg, 18. Diogo Ferreira, 19. Liam Parfitt, 20. Conor Dever, 21. Sam Bedlow, 22. Nev Edwards, 23. Forbes Edwards.


Gloucester United

15 Mat Protheroe 14 Ollie Thorley 13 David Halaifonua 12 Mark Atkinson 11 Steve McColl 10 Lloyd Evans 9 Callum Braley (c) 1 Yann Thomas 2 Darren Dawidiuk 3 Josh McNulty 4 Joe Latta 5 Tom Hicks 6 Elliott Stooke 7 Dan Thomas 8 Lewis Ludlow.

Repalcements: 16 Joe Mullis 17 Jamie Gibbons 18 Ciaran Knight 19 Alex Craig 20 Will Safe 21 Ben Vellacott 22 Jack Evans 23 Steph Reynolds.


Saracens Storm v Bath United


Saracens Storm

15 Ben Ransom 14 Matt Gallagher 13 Nick Tompkins 12 Nils Mordt (c) 11 Nathan Earle 10 Max Malins 9 Ben Spencer 1 Richard Barrington 2 Dave Porecki 3 Kieran Longbottom 4 Kieran Low 5 Kennett O’Neil 6 Jack Nay 7 Kelly Brown 8 Samu Vunisa.

Replacements: 16 Josh Taylor 17 Hayden Stringer 18 Biyi Alo 19 Jack Tredrea 20 Ben Earl 21 Tom Whiteley 22 Dom Morris 23 Aaron Morris.


Bath United

15 Darren Atkins 14 Liam Forsyth 13 Max Clark 12 Brett Herron 11 Jeff Williams 10 Adam Hastings 9 Will Homer 1 Beno Obano 2 Tom Dunn (c) 3 Kane Palma-Newport 4 Pat Jenkinson 5 Marcus Garrett 6 Alex Humfrey 7 Sydney Blackmore 8 Zach Mercer.

Replacements: 16 Dan Frost 17 Jack Andrew 18 Jack Edmondson 19 Will Graulich 20 James Catlin 21 Rory Jennings 22 Owen Waters 23 Henry Martin.


Wasps A v Bristol United


Wasps A

15. Piers O’Conor 14. Sailosi Tagicakibau 13. Brendan Macken 12. James Downey 11. Josh Bassett 10. Connor Eastgate 9. Jamie Stevenson 1. Tom Bristow  2. George Edgson 3. Will Stuart 4. James Cannon (c) 5. Jack Holford 6. Alex Rieder 7. Jack Willis 8. Guy Thompson.

Replacements: 16. Lewis Grinsell 17. Tom West/Alex Lundberg 18. Camilo Parilli-Ocampo 19. TBC 20. Jacob Turner 21. Will Porter 22. Conor Dolan 23. Owain James/Ollie Brown.


Bristol United

15 Auguy Slowik; 14 George Watkins, 13 Tommaso Benvenuti, 12 Nick Carpenter (c), 11 Ryan Edwards; 10 Callum Sheedy, 9 Andy Uren; 1 Kyle Traynor, 2 Chris Brooker, 3 Gaston Cortes, 4 Adam Sinclair (trialist), 5 John Hawkins, 6 Sam Jeffries (Bristol Uni), 7 Max Crumpton, 8 Josh Ovens.

Replacements: 16 James Stephenson, 17 Jamal Ford-Robinson, 18 David Spellman (Cambridge Uni), 19 Louis Wolf (Clifton RFC), 20 Jack Davies (Bath Uni), 21 Josh Barton (U18s/Millfield), 22 Sam Katz (trialist), 23 Darren Hudson.

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