Teams at the ready for Premiership Rugby 7s
After a long summer of waiting, domestic rugby is set to return in thrilling fashion.
The Premiership Rugby 7s gets underway on Friday at Franklin’s Gardens for what promises to be yet another captivating edition of the competition.
Gallagher Premiership Rugby new-boys London Irish and Gloucester Rugby kick off proceedings under the Friday night lights – live on BT Sport – while defending Champions Saracens get their title defence underway against Sale Sharks.
With squads announced and final tweaks being made, here is a look ahead to some of the key protagonists looking to make their mark in the season’s curtain-raiser.
The Premiership Rugby 7s has historically provided the perfect platform for exciting young talent to showcase their skills, with more than 40 players having gone on to play international Test rugby after starring in this competition.
And this season is no different, with a plethora of gifted flyers looking to steal the headlines – several of whom caught the eye at last season’s edition as well as throughout the Premiership Rugby Shield.
Chief among them this year is Wasps’ new man Zach Kibirige – plucked from the relegated Newcastle Falcons, his acquisition looks to have been a shrewd bit of business by Dai Young.
Scorer of some standout Gallagher Premiership Rugby tries last season, the 24-year-old will no doubt be desperate to make his mark on his first competitive outing in new colours.
He may well have his work cut out, however, by holders Saracens, who boast a squad that is chock-full of talent, with the next in-line from the Vunipola rugby machine – Manu – looking to dictate things as he did throughout their victorious Premiership Rugby Shield campaign.
Up front, back row Sean Reffell is set to do damage; he holds the club’s all-time tackle record with 39 against Worcester Warriors in last year’s Premiership Rugby Cup semi-final.
Elsewhere, Scott van Breda will likely play the Warriors’ experienced lieutenant, while JJ Tonks will get his first taste of action for hosts Northampton Saints after his move from Gloucester as a replacement for the injured Devante Onojaife.
The Bears have put their faith in the academy, with Ioan Lloyd, Will Capon and Nathan Chamberlain all looking to take the next step.
Exeter Chiefs will be skippered by Max Bodilly, with senior squad members James McRae, Joe Snow and Sam Maunder also in the mix to feature, while James Williams is set for his Sale Sharks debut after signing from the Warriors over summer.
Premiership Rugby 7s squads
Bath Rugby: Levi Davis, Tom de Glanville, Ollie Fox, Max Ojomoh, George Worboys, Myles Bean, Ryan Crowley, Fin Dewar, Nacanieli Kinikinilau, Jack Skelton, Frankie Smith, Tomasi Tanumi
Bristol Bears: Aaron Chapman, Jack Bates, Ioan Lloyd, Ben Tothill, Will Capon, Nathan Chamberlain, Toby Venner, Robbie Smith, Harry Short, Alex Forrester, Harry Ascherl
Harlequins: Ben Fulton, Sam Riley, Lennox Anyanwu, Lailand Gordon, George Hammond, Jack Kenningham, Mitieli Vulikijapani, Sikeli Rokovunicagi, Lloyd Wheeldon, Dylan Munro, James Bourton, Harry Barlow
Exeter Chiefs: James McRae, Joe Snow, Ollie White, Sam Maunder, Harvey Skinner, Sam Morley, Max Bodilly (capt), Luke Mehson, Arthur Realton, Jordan Bond, Charlie Fetney, Barrie Karea
Gloucester Rugby: George Barton, Jack Clement, Reece Dunn, Josh Gray, Joe Howard, Corey Howells, Ethan Hunt, Tom Stanton, Alex Morgan, Jake Morris, Charlie Tchen, Stephen Varney
Leicester Tigers: Henri Lavin, Taylor Gough, Ollie Ashworth, Jonny Law, Will Findlay, Joe Browning, Leo Gilliland, Freddie Steward, Johnny McPhillips (c), Toby Smith, Will Affleck, Cameron Jordan
London Irish: Jack Cooke, Phil Cokanasiga, Isaac Curtis-Harris (c), Caolan Englefield, Fergus Guiry, Feni Sofolair, Timi Olopade, Josh Smart, Ben Atkins, Gavin Dampies, Michael Dykes, Alex Harries
Northampton Saints: Emmanuel Iyogun, Jack Hughes, JJ Tonks, Tui Uru, Ollie Newman, Connor Tupai (c), Josh Gillespie, Tommy Freeman, Tommy Mathews, Ethan Grayson, Tom Litchfield, Dani Long-Martinez
Sale Sharks: Sam Moore, Rouban Birch, Curtis Langdon, Teddy Leatherbarrow, Luke James, Raffi Quirke, Tom Curtis, James Williams, Conor Doherty, Tom Roebuck, Joe Green, James Magee
Saracens: Oliver Stonham, Andrew Christie, Sean Reffell, Tobias Munday, Charlie Watson, Josh Hallett, Manu Vunipola, Elliott Obatoyinbo, Rotimi Segun, Ali Crossdale, Alex Day, Tom Whiteley
Wasps: Will Porter (VC), Gabriel Oghre, Sunni Jardine, Tim Cardall, Thibaud Flament, Ross Neal, Will Wilson (C), Paolo Odogwu, Ben Vellacott (VC), Jacob Umaga, Callum Sirker, Zach Kibirige
Worcester Warriors: Caleb Montgomery, Reece Beddows, Ashley Williams, Ross Whitmore, Ollie Wynn, Gareth Simpson, Luke Scully, Nick David, Oli Morris, Alex Hearle, Joel Medcraft, Isireli Sema