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  • Writer's picturePaul Andrews

Westcombe-Evans, O'Donnell & Nelson Return For Lightning Against Sharks


Head coach Nathan Smith has made four personnel changes to Loughborough Lightning’s starting line-up to face Sale Sharks this weekend.


The Allianz Premiership Women’s Rugby Round 5 clash at Heywood Road kicks off at 3pm on Saturday 16 December as Lightning bid to bounce back from a home loss to Bristol Bears last time out.


Winger Bo Westcombe-Evans – who has scored five tries in her last four games including a brace against Leicester Tigers – returns after missing out against Bristol due to injury. Fly-half Helen Nelson, who was selected to start last week but was forced to withdraw the morning of the match, has also recovered to wear the number ten shirt.


“Losing them both under unfortunate circumstances prior to the game was frustrating but we’re lucky and glad to have them both back in the squad," said Smith. “We hope they recreate their form of the first two games of the PWR season. I’ve been really impressed with both of them.”


Catherine O’Donnell, who also missed out in Round 4 with a knock, returns to the second row with Lili Ives Campion rotating to the replacements and Daisy Hibbert-Jones is promoted from the bench to the starting line-up.


There’s also three positional changes for the visitors on Saturday as Bulou Mataitoga comes in from the wing to outside centre, Emma Wassell switches from the back row to lock with Abby Duguid moving to the bench and captain Rachel Malcolm goes from number eight to blindside flanker.


Lightning have gone with a six-two split on the bench with former Worcester Warriors prop Catherine Wells set to make her Lightning debut when she is called into action.


Both Lightning and Sale have five league points so far this season, with Loughborough losing to Saracens and Bristol Bears either side of a victory at Leicester Tigers.


Meanwhile, Sale got their 2023/24 league campaign off to a tough start at Bristol Bears losing 48-5 before bouncing back with a 35-31 win over Harlequins ¬– but haven’t played for a fortnight due to a bye week and a match postponement.


Smith added: “We had a slow start and against a good team you cannot do that. We have spoken about that and how we can be energised from minute one. I don’t think the players are not trying, I don’t think it’s a lack of effort, we just need to go into Sale with a confidence that we can perform and put more of a performance together than we did against Bristol."


“Sale had a tough game against Bristol, quite similar to us, and then they had a really positive performance against Harlequins. We know it is going to be a tough place to go, Heywood Road, we know it is going to be a physical challenge. We as a squad are really excited about that."
"I can imagine they are chomping at the bit to play the game after having the two weeks they have had, they’re going to fly out the traps and we have to match and exceed their energy.”

SALE SHARKS v LOUGHBOROUGH LIGHTNING

Allianz Premiership Women’s Rugby, Round 5

Saturday 16 December 2023

Heywood Road

Kick-off: 3pm


15 Chloe Rollie

14 Georgina Tasker (vc)

13 Bulou Mataitoga

12 Carmela Morrall

11 Bo Westcombe-Evans

10 Helen Nelson

9 Megan Davey


1 Katie Trevarthen

2 Kathryn Treder

3 Christine Belisle

4 Emma Wassell

5 Catherine O’Donnell

6 Rachel Malcolm (c)

7 Sadia Kabeya

8 Daisy Hibbert-Jones


Replacements:

16 Maja Meuller

17 Isla Curphey

18 Catherine Wells

19 Lili Ives Campion

20 Abby Duguid

21 Hallie Taufoou

22 Jess Weaver

23 Carys Williams-Morris


For the first time, all of Loughborough’s home league matches will be played at cinch Stadium at Franklin’s Gardens this season – Season Tickets covering all eight games are available now and start from just £40 adult / £22 junior (under-18s).


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