Aviva Premiership: Saia Fainga'a to make league bow at Worcester

Former Wallaby hooker Saia Fainga'a will make his Premiership debut against Worcester. Chris Hyde/Getty Images

The Aviva Premiership returns this weekend to give rugby fans an early Christmas present, and there are some heavyweight clashes in store. Worcester and London Irish kick things off with their basement battle, while troubled Northampton host Exeter and Saracens travel to Leicester.

ESPN brings you all the latest team news ahead of round 11.


Worcester vs. London Irish

Sixways, 7.45 p.m.

Gary Gold has made just two changes to his last Premiership selection as David Denton and GJ van Velze are picked in the Warriors' back row ahead of the relegation showdown. Van Velze has recovered from a rib injury to be able to take his place, while Denton has impressed in the Challenge Cup over recent weeks. Darren Barry, Sam Olver and Perry Humphreys are all included on the replacements' bench.

London Irish boss Nick Kennedy has handed a Premiership debut to former Wallaby hooker Saia Fainga'a as the Exiles go in search of a first league away win of the season. Kennedy has rung the changes from the side that lost to Stade Francais in the Challenge Cup last weekend, with Joe Cokanasiga, Fergus Mulchrone, Luke McLean, Alex Lewington, James Marshall, Ben Meehan, Ben Franks, Petrus du Plessis, Franco van der Merwe, Teofilo Paulo, Mike Coman, Blair Cowan and Ofisa Treviranus all coming in.


Newcastle Falcons vs. Harlequins

Kingston Park, 3 p.m.

Mark Wilson captains the Falcons in his 200th competitive appearance for the club when they look to host Harlequins. The north east club are looking for their fourth successive victory in all competitions following on from their most recent victory over Saints in the Premiership. Nili Latu and Sonatane Takulua return to the starting XV while Vereniki Goneva, Chris Harris, Sinoti Sinoti, Toby Flood, Kyle Cooper and Jon Welsh also get the nod.

Like Wilson, Chris Robshaw is also hitting a milestone in his club career as he's set to make his 250th appearance for Harlequins. He's one of seven changes to the starting XV thatr lost to Ulster last time. Joe Marler, Ben Glynn and James Chisholm will also feature for the London club while Mike Brown, Tim Visser and Jono Kitto are named to start in the backs.

Northampton Saints vs. Exeter Chiefs

Franklin's Gardens, 3 p.m.

Saints' interim head coach Alan Dickens has made five changes to his starting XV after last week's defeat to Ospreys. Courtney Lawres comes back in at blindside flanker while Michael Paterson and Api Ratuniyarawa also set to start in the pack. Luther Burrell also returns to partner Rob Horne in midfield.

Ali Hepher has named a changed side to face Saints with Harry Williams and Jonny Hill coming in for Tomas Francis and Mitch Lees in the pack. Dave Ewers also makes his first Premiership start since April. Elsewere, injuries to both Phil Dollman and Lachie Turner means Henry Slade is the preferred option at fullback with Sam Hill coming in to partner Ian Whitten in the centre.

Sale Sharks vs. Bath

AJ Bell Stadium, 3 p.m.

The Sharks' starting XV features seven players returning following on from their two victories over Cardiff Blues. James O'Connor starts at fullback for the hosts while Denny Solomona and Sam James also feature in the XV. Jono Ross captains the side with Ben Curry, Josh Strauss and Rob Webber also present in the pack.

The big story for Bath is that Lucas Noguera has been selected to make his debut against Sale. The Argentina international will start at loosehead prop alongside Henry Thomas and Michael van Vuuren. Francis Louw, who was named last week's man of the match vs. Toulon, retains his place with Kahn Fotuali'i and Freddie Burns also selected to start. Rhys Priestland switches to inside centre alongside Matt Banahan.

Wasps vs. Gloucester

Ricoh Arena, 3 p.m.

England international James Haskell is rested after starting eight games in a row for Wasps. He is replaced in the starting XV by Jack Willis. Among the backs, Kyle Eastmond replaces the injured Jimmy Gopperth while Joe Simpson starts for Wasps at scrumhalf as he is preferred to ex-Gloucester player Dan Robson. While Gopperth misses out, Josh Bassett returns from injury to start at wing in place of Elliot Daly.

Gloucester make nine changes from their thrashing of Zebre in the Challenge Cup as Tom Marshall returns to make his first start of the season at fullback. It will be Marshall's first appearance since May's Challenge Cup final, with the New Zealander picking up a serious shoulder injury during preseason. Elsewhere, captain Willi Heinz returns at scrum-half while the forward pack is heavily changed. Paddy McAllister, James Hanson and John Afoa form a completely changed front row while Tom Savage comes in to partner Ed Slater in the second row. Lewis Ludlow and Ruan Ackermann both return to the back row.


Leicester Tigers vs. Saracens

Welford Road, 3 p.m.

There is one change for Leicester as Logovi'i Mulipola returns to the starting XV at loosehead prop. Kyle Traynor is the man to make way for Mulipola. The only other change to the matchday 23 from the Tigers' defeat to Munster comes on the bench -- Harry Wells replaces Don Barrow.

Saracens also make just one change from their agonising defeat at Clermont last weekend. That change sees Vincent Koch dropped to the bench with Juan Figallo coming in to partner England internationals Mako Vunipola and Jamie George in the front row. Owen Farrell continues to captain Saracens in the absence of Brad Barritt, who is still recovering from his head injury suffered against Clermont at Allianz Park, while Alex Goode, Sean Maitland and Chris Wyles form a strong back-line.