A total of 22 Lions from this summer’s tour of South Africa saw action in the latest round of domestic rugby.
The Guinness Premiership featured six returning Lions this weekend, with Harlequins, Sale, Bath and Wasps selecting players who recently made their mark with Britain and Ireland’s elite.
Ugo Monye was a try-scorer for Harlequins in their 17-17 draw at Newcastle on Friday night as he made his fourth appearance of the new season since leaving the Republic as a Lions Test wing.
The 26-year-old was again playing in his less-customary position of full back at Kingston Park but he nevertheless impressed with a fine second-half score as Quins fought back from 14-3 down to share the spoils in the north east.
Elsewhere in England, hooker Lee Mears started for Bath against a Leicester side missing both their 2009 Lions stars Tom Croft and Harry Ellis.
Mears looked in decent shape following a long, hard season that ended with a Lions cap against the Springboks in Durban but it was his opposite number Mefin Davies who got on the scoresheet as the game ended in yet another Premiership draw.
Andrew Sheridan played for just under an hour of Sale’s defeat at Worcester before leaving the field after appearing to be suffering the effects of a flu virus. Sale’s head coach Kingsley Jones said the club’s doctors would be monitoring the giant prop’s health after hooker Mahonri Schwalger was also affected earlier in the week.
Lions defence coach Shaun Edwards selected three of his 2009 tourists for the trip to London Irish, with back row Joe Worsley starting on the blindside flank and Tim Payne chosen at loosehead and Phil Vickery at tighthead for the much-anticipated encounter in Reading.
Simon Shaw sat out what proved to be Wasps’ first defeat of the new season as Irish ran out 28-16 winners at the Madejski Stadium.
In the Magners League, Leinster led the way as they named five members of Ian McGeechan’s touring party in their squad to face high-flying Edinburgh.
And the inclusion of Rob Kearney, Gordon D’Arcy, Luke Fitzgerald, Jamie Heaslip and new signing Nathan Hines had the desired impact as the Dubliners ended Edinburgh’s unbeaten start to the new campaign.
Mike Blair made his first start of the season and took over the captaincy duties for the Scottish capital side but he and fellow Lion Ross Ford were left disappointed as Edinburgh tasted league defeat for the first time in nine matches stretching back to last season.
While European Champions Leinster were narrow winners at Murrayfield after Chris Paterson missed an injury time penalty, a number of other Irish Lions enjoyed a more comfortable winning margin at Musgrave Park.
Ronan O’Gara skippered Munster in place of Lions leader Paul O’Connell, with Donncha O’Callaghan also starting for the reigning Magners League Champions in their 27-3 victory over the Dragons. John Hayes was an unused replacement.
Alan Quinlan and Tomas O’Leary, who were both named in McGeechan’s original touring party before suspension and injury respectively ruled them out of contention, also featured for Munster, who saw Keith Earls withdraw through illness prior to kick off.
As for the Welsh Lions, the derby between Cardiff Blues and the Scarlets saw Jamie Roberts and Matthew Rees involved for their respective sides as the hosts won 19-15 at the new Cardiff City Stadium.
That match also witnessed the return of original Lions choice Tom Shanklin who had spent the previous five months on the sidelines after shoulder surgery prevented him from traveling to South Africa.
The Ospreys returned to winning ways following two home defeats thanks to an impressive solo try from Lions wing Tommy Bowe. The Ireland international crossed for a match-turning second-half score as the Ospreys came back from 16-16 down to win at Glasgow.
Scott Johnson’s side also included fellow Lions Lee Byrne, Shane Williams, Mike Phillips and James Hook, with the latter starting at inside centre rather than fly-half.
Ryan Jones, who was called up to the Lions squad as a replacement for Stephen Feris but immediately sent home due to a head injury, came off the bench for the much-criticised Ospreys as they secured a 26-16 win at Firhill.