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Player Movements

Francois van Wyk

Francois van Wyk

South African Loosehead prop Francois van Wyk will make his first appearance in the starting fifteen when the Western Force takes on the Queensland Reds at Brisbane’s Suncorp Stadium on Saturday.

Van Wyk, who scored the Force’s final try in last weekend’s 25 / 13 win over the Waratahs, has played 3 matches off the bench for the Western Australian club, and will pack down alongside Wallabies Nathan Charles and Tetera Faulkner.

The 24-year-old front rower replaces Pek Cowan, who will be monitored regarding his pending return after scans cleared him of any serious injury having been carried from the field on Sunday.

The other change to the starting 15 sees Zack Holmes promoted to fullback in the absence of Dane Haylett-Petty, who has been ruled out with a foot injury.

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James O'Connor

James O’Connor

Reds head coach Richard Graham has named his side to take on the Western Force at Suncorp Stadium this Saturday, with 4 personnel changes to the side which lost to the Brumbies in the opening Round.

2 Of the changes are to the starting side, with former All Blacks flanker Adam Thomson and Wallabies utility James O’Connor named to make their Reds debut.

Thomson will start at blindside flanker, with Curtis Browning shifting to the bench. O’Connor has been named starting flyhalf, with Karmichael Hunt returning to fullback.

On the bench, former Australian Schoolboys and Under 20 representative Tom Murday replaces Ed O’Donoghue at lock. Murday was part of the Reds Wider Training Squad in 2013 before heading to New Zealand to join ITM Cup side Northland. He was a member of the Blues Extended Player Squad last year before returning home to train with the Reds. Should he take the field this weekend it will be his Super Rugby debut.

The other change to the replacements sees utility Sam Johnson come in for Duncan Paia’aua, who has been ruled out following a head knock in last week’s match. Johnson, a bruising centre for Brisbane club GPS, made his Super Rugby debut for the Reds last season and is a member of the club’s Elite Development Squad.

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Israel Dagg

Israel Dagg

Israel Dagg will make his return to Super Rugby when the Crusaders take on the Highlanders this Saturday.

He is 1 of 5 changes to the starting line-up this week.

Crusaders head coach Todd Blackadder has named Wyatt Crockett to start in the No 1 jersey this week, with Joe Moody and Nepo Laulala providing prop cover from the bench.

Scott Barrett will start at lock for the first time in Super Rugby, pairing up with Luke Romano and with Dominic Bird on the bench.

Colin Slade shifts from fullback to flyhalf, with Daniel Carter recovering from a knock to the leg in last week’s match, and Dagg steps in at No 15.

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Ita Vaea

Ita Vaea

Ita Vaea will complete a remarkable and dramatic comeback from a serious heart condition to start for the Brumbies for the first time since 2012.

Jarrad Butler moves to openside flank this Friday when the Brumbies travel to New Zealand’s north island to face the Chiefs.

A syndesmosis injury to David Pocock forced the change, with Vaea featuring at No 8 and in the starting side for the first time in 2 years.

The last time Vaea started for the Brumbies was under Jake White in 2012 and the Tongan powerhouse hasn’t featured at the back of the scrum since 2011.

Vaea has battled a serious heart condition for more than 2 years, with last week’s 30-minute effort against the Reds his 1st Super Rugby time since coming from the bench to beat the Waratahs in Sydney back in Round 15 of 2012.

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Jano Vermaak

Jano Vermaak

Springbok scrumhalf Jano Vermaak is set to join the Stormers at the end of the season after 2 years with Toulouse.

The former Lions and Bulls scrumhalf joined the 4-time European champions in 2013, and featured regularly in his 1st season in the Top 14.

He has fallen down the pecking order this season however, with Sébastien Bezy and Jean-Marc Doussain both ahead of him, making just 2 starts so far.

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Naka Drotske

Naka Drotske

The Cheetahs’ team doctor has a special plan to help the team overcome jet lag on their upcoming Australasian Super Rugby tour.

The men from Bloemfontein start their tour with a clash against the Crusaders in Christchurch on 21 March, before facing the Chiefs (Hamilton 28 March), Brumbies (Canberra 4 April) and Force (11 April).

Dr Louis Holtzhausen said the fact that the Cheetahs’ first game is in Christchurch makes things extra difficult.

“It’s the furthest that you can travel and the most difficult away game to start with,” he said.

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Malakai Fekitoa

Malakai Fekitoa

Following his 2014 breakout season for the Highlanders and All Blacks, Malakai Fekitoa has re-signed with New Zealand Rugby for 2 years, extending his contract until at least the end of 2017.

Fekitoa’s commitment is a major coup for both New Zealand Rugby and the Highlanders and he joins a growing list of current All Blacks who have recommitted beyond this year.

He was 1 of only 4 players to play in all 17 Highlanders’ games last year, staking his claim on the No 13 jersey early with his eye-catching performance in the opening round of the 2014 Super Rugby Competition against his old team, the Blues.

He was also 1 of 2 players to play every possible minute for their team last season (1360 across 17 appearances), the other being Michael Hooper who played 1440, including the Final.

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Finn Russell

Finn Russell

Finn Russell, the Scotland outside half, appeared today before an independent Six Nations Disciplinary Committee at Heathrow, having been cited under Law 10.4 (e) and (i) for an alleged dangerous tackle of an opponent in the air in the 31st minute of the RBS 6 Nations match between Scotland and Wales on Sunday 15 February 2015.

The Disciplinary Committee, chaired by Mike Hamlin (England) along with Jean-Philippe Lachaume (France) and Pat Barriscale (Ireland), having heard from the player and his representative and viewed various TV angles of the incident, determined that Finn Russell had committed an act of foul play which merited a Red Card rather than the on-field Yellow Card given by the Match Officials.

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Ma'a Nonu

Ma’a Nonu

All Black Ma’a Nonu is back at centre for the Hurricanes as they prepare to face the Bulls in a Super Rugby clash at Loftus Versfeld on Friday.

Nonu missed the Hurricanes’ 22 / 8 win over the Lions in Johannesburg last

weekend to attend the birth of his child, but has slotted into the starting fifteen this week.

It will be Nonu’s 145th Super Rugby appearance, and 1st for the Hurricanes since 2011.

The match will also be a significant occasion for Manawatu flank Callum Gibbins, who is set to get his 1st start for the Hurricanes.

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Hosea Gear

Hosea Gear

Aaron Cruden

Aaron Cruden

Liam Messam

Liam Messam

The Chiefs have injected some All Black experience for the Round 2 match against the Brumbies on Friday.

All Blacks Liam Messam and Aaron Cruden come into the starting team, as does former international Hosea Gear.

Current New Zealand and World Rugby Player of the Year, Brodie Retallick, will make his 1st appearance of the season from the bench.

In total, Chiefs coach Dave Rennie has made 6 changes to the starting side originally named to face the Blues last week.

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Lodewyk De Jager

Lodewyk de Jager

Cheetahs lock Lood de Jager will be sidelined for at least 3 months after undergoing an operation to repair injured elbow ligaments.

De Jager left the field in the 1st half of the Cheetahs’ 35 / 29 Super Rugby win against the Sharks at Growthpoint Kings Park in Durban last Saturday.

It was feared that he had broken his elbow, but X-rays revealed only ligament damage.

But the Springbok was still forced to go under the knife on Tuesday.

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Israel Dagg

Israel Dagg

Dan Carter

Dan Carter

Crusaders pivot Dan Carter is set to miss the Christchurch-based team’s clash against the Highlanders in Dunedin on Saturday.

Carter hurt his leg in his side’s 20 / 10 loss to the Melbourne Rebels last weekend and although Crusaders assistant coach Aaron Mauger believes the injury isn’t serious, he said it’s unlikely that the All Blacks flyhalf would be considered to play this weekend.

That means that Colin Slade is expected to start in the No 10 jeresey.

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Rory Kockott

Rory Kockott

Castres scrumhalf Rory Kockott has been ruled out of Saturday’s crucial Top 14 game with Oyonnax, after suffering a quadriceps injury in France’s Six Nations defeat against Ireland.

The injury update came via the club’s scrum coach and recently appointed consultant Maurico Reggiardo.

The 28-year-old South Africa-born player – who became eligible to play for the French last year – may not be fit enough either to be named in the Six Nations squad for the game with Wales on Saturday week.

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Jesse Kriel

Jesse Kriel

Regular captain and No 8 Pierre Spies is back at the helm of the Vodacom Bulls when they take on the Hurricanes at Loftus Versfeld on Friday in Round 2 of the Vodacom Super Rugby competition.

Spies takes over the captaincy from Victor Matfield and the No 8 jumper from Arno Botha, who picked up an injury in the Vodacom Bulls tournament opener last weekend against the DHL Stormers.

The regular Bulls leader was eased back into action off the bench, but is now fit to start in a team that shows 4 changes to the starting line-up and 6 all-together from the one that started their campaign with a disappointing loss against the Cape side.

Spies comes in for Botha, with his place on the bench taken by rookie loose forward Hanro Liebenberg, who could earn a first start should he take to the field.

The injury to Werner Kruger also resulted in a front row shuffle. Trevor Nyakane will move from the left side of the front row to the right and Morné Mellett off the bench into the No 1 jersey.

A fit-again Dean Greyling will take Mellett’s place on the bench.

The other unforced change is at fullback where Jesse Kriel will start, with Jurgen Visser moving down to the bench in a straight swop with the Junior Springbok player.

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Tendai 'Beast' Mtawarira

Tendai ‘Beast’ Mtawarira

The Sharks suffered a major injury scare on Saturday when Tendai Mtawarira left the field in pain, with the early diagnosis indicating a severe injury.

However, after undergoing scans on Monday, a calf tear was downgraded to a calf strain and although he will not be considered for selection for a few weeks, this does not constitute a long term injury.

“Losing an international is a big loss to any team, obviously we aren’t happy about losing Tendai, but there’s nothing we can do, we have to move on,” said assistant coach Sean Everitt.

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Dan Carter

Dan Carter

Details on Dan Carter’s leg injury are still fuzzy heading towards the Crusaders match against the Highlanders on Saturday.

The official line signalled some improvement when he was assessed by the medical staff and then involved in the squad’s light workout on Monday at their Christchurch headquarters.

During the Crusaders’ opening Super Rugby loss to the Rebels, Carter took a knock to his lower right leg which he then aggravated when he made a hasty clearing kick from his in-goal area.

The limping flyhalf stayed on for a further 15 minutes hoping the discomfort from his “dead leg” would ease. He had to be subbed and when he fronted for interviews later, Carter was optimistic there was no significant issue.

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Allister Coetzee

Allister Coetzee

The Stormers have no major injury concerns in their camp this week, as they get set to host the Blues at Newlands on Saturday (17:05 SA Time).

The men from the Cape opened their 2015 Super Rugby campaign with a memorable 29 / 17 win over the Bulls in Pretoria and they could be boosted this week by the return of forwards Frans Malherbe and Siya Kolisi and wing Kobus van Wyk.

The trio missed the trip to Pretoria, but more will be known about their participation in Round 2 when the team is announced on Thursday, just before lunch-time.

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Johan Ackermann

Johan Ackermann

Emirates Lions coach Johan Ackermann has refused to try and reign his players in, continuing to back them despite their frustrating Vodacom Super Rugby loss to the Hurricanes at Emirates Airline Park on Friday night.

Ackermann has defended his team’s inability to score despite dominating every facet of play except the scoreboard, saying the execution and decision-making needs to improve, not the game plan.

The coach staunchly defended his team’s expansive approach and feels they simply need to hone their play better to get the right results.

“Our attack worked for us, the execution let us down,” Ackermann said.

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BullsThe Vodacom Bulls took quite a beating on the weekend against a DHL Stormers side who boasted far fewer Springboks and seasoned players than the Bulls.

Nick Mallett talks about how bad the Bulls really were.

JJ Engelbrecht, cited for a dangerous tackle received an off-field Yellow Card – a stern warning not to repeat the type of incident.

Frans Ludeke, Vodacom Bulls coach portrayed his usual diplomatic self… or is that his usual dim-witted self as some would have us believe, when questioned on the Bulls lacklustre performance on the weekend.

The Bulls also released a fitness report today, which reads like a war-veterans hospital checklist, with 3 more injuries, ahead of the Hurricanes clash on Friday evening. The injuries, specially amongst frontrowers are worrying, very worrying seeing as the Bulls scrums have been degenerating at a rate of knots in 2015… well actually for a number of seasons now… and the Bulls Brains Trust, if one could call it that, seems to have no answers to shore up the Bulls scrumming woes.

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Tendai 'Beast Mtawarira

Tendai ‘Beast Mtawarira

Lodewyk De Jager

Lodewyk de Jager

Bismarck du Plessis

Bismarck du Plessis

We are just 1 week into the Super Rugby season and there is already a lengthy list of Springboks sidelined by injury.

With captain Jean de Villiers a non-starter thanks to a knee injury which has put a question mark over his availability for the World Cup, he has been joined by Eben Etzebeth, Bismarck du Plessis, Tendai Mtawarira, Lodewyk de Jager amd Julian Redelinghuys.

Etzebeth hurt his chest in a warm-up game against the Cheetahs at Newlands, and is only expected back in the 3rd round – the 3rd consecutive year he has missed the start of the competition.

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David Pocock

David Pocock

David Pocock will not be available for selection this Friday after receiving a grade-one syndesmosis to his ankle during Friday’s win over the Reds in Canberra.

Pocock did not train with the main squad on Monday. He said it was now a matter of getting his ankle right for a quick return to the field.

“Obviously it’s a disappointing outcome and not what I wanted, having spent a long time out. But it’s treatable and I know I’m in good hands here with the Brumbies medical team,” Pocock said.

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Pek Cowan

Pek Cowan

Wallabies prop Pek Cowan has been cleared of serious injury after being carried off the pitch in the wake of a scrum collapse in the Super Rugby match between Western Force and the Waratahs on Sunday.

It looked like being a miserable start to the new season for the versatile 10-cap front row forward when he received lengthy treatment on the pitch before being carted off in a neck brace.

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Nic Stirzaker

Nic Stirzaker

The Duty Judicial Officer has accepted an acknowledgement of breach by Nic Stirzaker of the Rebels under Law 10.4 (b) Stamping or trampling. A player must not stamp or trample an opponent.

Stirzaker was cited after a Super Rugby match between the Crusaders and the Rebels at AMI Stadium, Christchurch on Friday 13 February 2015.

The player has been suspended from all forms of the game for one week up to and including Sunday 22 February 2015.

The Duty Judicial Officer, Nicholas Davidson QC, assessed the case and recorded:

“I took into account that the player admitted stamping which was accepted as reckless to the point of contact.

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Jamie Heaslip

Jamie Heaslip

Irish No 8 Jamie Heaslip has 3 fractured vertebrae and will miss at least 4 weeks including the potential Grand Slam decider between Six Nations champions Ireland and England in a fortnight it was announced by the IRFU on Monday.

The 31-year-old British and Irish Lions star suffered the injury after being kneed in the back by France lock Pascal Pape in Ireland’s 18 / 11 victory over the French on Saturday.

“Scans have revealed fractures of the transverse process of 3 vertebrae in Jamie’s back,” read a statement from the Irish Rugby Football Union.

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Coventry LogoThe ongoing poaching of South Africa’s Rugby players goes ahead unabated with the announcement by English club Coventry that they have signed South African born centre Mark Hodgkiss from Maties.

Coventry already have a number of SA born players on their books and even though they only play in the 3rd tier of English Rugby, this latest signing serves to illustrate the depth of the problem facing South African Rugby.

 

This media release from Coventry Rugby’s website:

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Rynhardt Elstadt

Rynhardt Elstadt

Stormers flank Rynhardt Elstadt has denied a report stating that he could join a top Japanese club.

This comes after a local Cape newspaper earlier this week reported that the Stormers hard-man is likely to join the exodus to Japan.

However, when asked about the possible move, Elstadt denied the report. His contract with Western Province expires at the end of October.

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Jonathan Sexton

Jonathan Sexton

Ireland flyhalf Jonathan Sexton will play his first game in 12 weeks, after coach Joe Schmidt took a gamble to start him in the defending champion’s Six Nations clash with France at Lansdowne Road on Saturday.

The 29-year-old – who has not played since the victory over Australia on 22 November after suffering a third concussion in a calendar year – replaces Ian Keatley, who played in the opening 26 / 3 victory over Italy last Saturday.

Fellow veterans, No 8 Jamie Heaslip and flank Sean O’Brien, also return to the starting fifteen – the former after recovering from shoulder and knee injuries and the latter will play his first Test since the heroic loss to world champions New Zealand in November 2013.

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Pat Lambie

Pat Lambie

Cell C Sharks flyhalf Pat Lambie feels that SARU’s initiative to rest Springboks during the Super Rugby campaign will benefit both the national team and the bigger franchises.

SARU announced Monday that they would manage the game time of a number of key Springboks throughout the Super Rugby series following an agreement between the national board and the franchises.

It stated that players’ game time will be handled on an individual basis depending on their work load in the last year as well as injuries, in an effort to ensure the Springboks are managed as well as possible in the build-up to the World Cup in September and October.

Although not focusing on the World Cup directly, Lambie feels that enforced rest and subsequent squad rotation will benefit a bigger union such as the Sharks.

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Johnny Kotze

Johnny Kotze

Johnny Kotze, who was a stand-out player for last season’s Western Province Under 21 side, is the major surprise in the Stormers team to play the Bulls in the opening round of the 2015 Super Rugby competition at Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria, on Saturday evening.

The Johannesburg-born Kotze, who was schooled at Bishops in Cape Town, was given the nod after right wing Kobus van Wyk was omitted from Saturday’s match-day squad. Van Wyk, who had returned from a calf injury, enjoyed very little game time in the pre-season warm-up matches and it was felt that he needed more time to reach the desired level of match readiness.

“Kotze has all the core skills that is required of a wing,” said Stormers coach Allister Coetzee, at Thursday’s team announcement in Bellville. “He was one of the stars in last season’s (WP) Under 21 team. He’s been in our system and he brings characteristics that are very pleasing.

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Grant Hattingh

Grant Hattingh

Bulls lock Grant Hattingh is reportedly heading to Japan after the completion of this year’s Super Rugby competition.

Bulls High Performance Manager, Xander Janse van Rensburg, said that Hattingh has a “Japan clause” in his contract.

Should Hattingh leave for Japan, he would miss this year’s Currie Cup competition, but return in time for Super Rugby in 2016.

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Johnny Kotze

Johnny Kotze

Coach Allister Coetzee has mentioned his name almost every time he has spoken about his wing options for Saturday’s opening Vodacom Super Rugby clash with the Bulls at Loftus, but the likely inclusion of Johnny Kotze at No 14 will nonetheless be regarded as a surprise selection.

Although Kobus van Wyk, the regular Stormers right wing, has apparently fully recovered from his calf injury, the fact that he has played less than half an hour of rugby in the pre-season is likely to see him excluded from the starting team when it is announced at lunch time on Thursday.

EW Viljoen was seen as a possible replacement as he played for Western Province in the final Currie Cup league game of last year and did quite well, while Huw Jones, after turning in a solid performance at inside centre in his first start for the Stormers against the Cheetahs, was probably the favourite to slot into Van Wyk’s regular position.

However, it is understood that Kotze has been training on the wing this week, and is likely to “do a Van Wyk” by starting his first season of Super Rugby there in Pretoria.

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Armand du Preez

Armand du Preez

The Stormers have roped in the services of very tall EP Kings lock, Armand du Preez.

Du Preez is the son of former Eastern Province Junior Springbok lock, Armand du Preez.

Du Preez jnr trained with the Stormers at the High Performance Centre in Bellville on Wednesday.

Du Preez snr was regarded as arguably one of the toughest locks of his generation. He played 85 games for EP.

At 2.05m, Armand du Preez jnr is probably the tallest lock in the Cape at the moment.

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Mauro Bergamasco

Mauro Bergamasco

Mauro Bergamasco on Wednesday earned a recall to the Italian Six Nations side to take on England at Twickenham on Saturday.

The 35-year-old Zebre stalwart will win his 101st cap when he takes over at flank from Alessandro Zanni, who was injured in last weekend’s 3 / 26 loss to Ireland in the tournament’s opener.

Another veteran brought back into the starting 15 is 34-year-old Marco Bortolami, who will win his 111th cap in the second row alongside George Biagi following an injury to Quintin Geldenhuys.

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Kobus van Wyk

Kobus van Wyk

DHL Stormers are still waiting on the fitness of wing Kobus van Wyk ahead of Saturday’s Vodacom Super Rugby derby against the Bulls at Loftus and the result of his fitness test on Thursday could have a big impact on the Cape team’s chances of success.

Van Wyk, who has struggled with a calf strain for nearly 2 weeks and is according to backline coach Robbie Fleck only training under supervision, meanly separate from the rest of the team, is key to the Stormers’ back 3 balance.

The former South African Under 20 centre was a revelation when switched to the wing by the Stormers and WP last season, and he made a big difference to the Stormers’ ability to compete in the aerial battle in 2014. That has long been a Cape team weakness, with too many players short of beef lining up together in the back 3 since the departure of Sireli Naqelevuki a few seasons ago.

Van Wyk made some great takes off cross kicks last year and also knocked on a few in the Currie Cup that had great scoring potential written all over them, and this added a new weapon to the Stormers / WP attacking arsenal.

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George North down against England on the weekend

George North down against England on the weekend

Wales have made 1 change to their side to face Scotland on Sunday, with Liam Williams coming into the starting 15.

Scarlets back Williams will win his 20th cap at Murrayfield and replaces George North.

North is currently symptom free and whilst nearing the conclusion of the graduated return to play protocol the decision has been taken to allow him an elongated recovery period in light of his recent concussive episode in the autumn period.

The 1 change results in the same starting backline that beat South Africa, in the final autumn international, taking to the field this weekend.

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