Loughborough Lightning have made two personnel changes and two positional switches for their first East Midlands Derby against Leicester Tigers to be held at cinch Stadium at Franklin’s Gardens this weekend.
The second half of Lightning’s 2023/24 Allianz Premiership Women’s Rugby campaign commences with the eagerly-anticipated clash with Tigers on Saturday 10 February (kick-off: 2pm), the first part of a Double Header of fixtures with Northampton Saints Under-18s versus Newcastle Falcons to follow (kick-off: 4.15pm).
Head Coach Nathan Smith’s side will be wearing their alternative strip of Black, Green and Gold for only the second time as they seek to make it three league victories in a row following wins over Harlequins and Trailfinders Women. If they manage that feat on Saturday, it will be Lightning’s best winning run in two years.
Ever-present vice-captain Georgina Tasker switches from wing to fullback in place of the injured Chloe Rollie, with Carys Williams-Morris coming into the starting line-up after impressing from the bench against Trailfinders last time out.
The Wales international’s promotion sees Bo Westcombe-Evans – who has the highest gainline success (75%) and carry dominance (77%) rates of any player to have made 50+ carries in PWR this season – switch from the left to the right wing.
There’s one change to the pack as Lilli Ives Campion comes into the second row alongside Catherine O’Donnell, with Emma Wassell rotated to the replacements.
Fresh from scoring her first Lightning try last time out in her 48th appearance, Helen Nelson is partnered again in midfield with Bulou Mataitoga, who also got on the scoresheet against Trailfinders. Meg Davey and Round 9 Player of the Week Helena Rowland remain as the half-back pairing.
The front row trio of Katie Trevarthen, Kathryn Treder, Christine Belisle start together for a third successive match while the back-row combination of captain Rachel Malcolm, Sadia Kabeya and Daisy Hibbert-Jones remains unchanged for a sixth successive game.
A familiar face returns to the bench as Emma Hardy is involved for the first time in two months and will make her 84th appearance for the Club when she enters the field.
There’s two changes to the front row replacements as Catherine Wells returns from a head injury and Amelia Williams will is in-line to make her Lightning debut from the bench – which is once more a six/two split with Maja Meuller, Abby Duguid and Hallie Taufoou the additional forward options with Jess Weaver the alternative scrum-half at Smith’s disposal.
Opponents Leicester Tigers have picked up seven of their overall nine league points this season in their last two games, defeating Sale Sharks before playing their part in a thrilling 33-26 loss to unbeaten defending champions Gloucester-Hartpury in Round 10.
“The key feeling going into this game amongst the group is that of excitement. It has been three weeks since we last played so the group is extremely fresh and chomping at the bit to get back out there.Nathan Smith, Loughborough Lightning Head Coach
“We showed prior to the break some of our best rugby of the season so far to defeat Harlequins and Trailfinders, but we know we are going to have to up it again against Tigers.
“Leicester’s performances in recent games make them the form team in PWR and they’re improving week on week. In Meg Jones, they have one of the most, if not the most, influential player in the league who is capable winning a match by herself.
“So, we are tremendously respectful of the threats Tigers possess, but are also confident that we have prepared fully for this match and have many potent threats of our own that I am sure will keep the crowd entertained on Saturday afternoon.”
LOUGHBOROUGH LIGHTNING v LEICESTER TIGERS
Allianz Premiership Women’s Rugby, Round 11
Saturday 10 February 2024
cinch Stadium at Franklin’s Gardens
15 Georgina Tasker
14 Bo Westcombe-Evans
13 Bulou Mataitoga
12 Helen Nelson
11 Carys Williams-Morris
10 Helena Rowland
9 Meg Davey
1 Katie Trevarthen
2 Kathryn Treder
3 Christine Belisle
4 Lilli Ives Campion
5 Catherine O’Donnell
6 Rachel Malcolm
7 Sadia Kabeya
8 Daisy Hibbert-Jones
16 Maja Meuller
17 Amelia Williams
18 Catherine Wells
19 Abby Duguid
20 Emma Wassell
21 Hallie Taufoou
22 Jess Weaver
23 Emma Hardy
Tickets for Saturday’s Double Header of fixtures are still available to purchase HERE priced at £7.50 (adult) and £3 (child)*.
* All tickets are subject to a £1.50 booking fee.