LionsWatch: Five games to follow on Friday night

After an unforgettable European fortnight the Aviva Premiership and Guinness PRO12 both return to action with a bang on Friday night. [more]

LionsWatch: Five games to follow on Friday night

After an unforgettable European fortnight the Aviva Premiership and Guinness PRO12 both return to action with a bang on Friday night.

Northampton and Gloucester lock horns in England while there are derbies to savour in Wales and Ireland as Cardiff Blues pit their wits against Scarlets while Ulster welcome Munster to Belfast.

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Both Scottish sides are also at home as Glasgow Warriors entertain Zebre and Treviso travel to the capital to take on Edinburgh.

With the autumn internationals fast approaching and spots on The British & Irish Lions 2017 Tour to New Zealand up for grabs – now is the time to shine. 
Friday, 7:45PM, Gloucester v Northampton – Franklin’s Gardens
Earlier this week Eddie Jones named his squad for England’s autumn campaign and there were two big names recalled for the first time in the Australian’s reign.

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Flanker Tom Wood and winger Jonny May will both be back in the Red Rose this autumn and they celebrate that achievement by facing off at Franklin’s Gardens in the league on Friday night.

May has been in supreme try-scoring form on the left wing for the Cherry & Whites with two in his first two games back from his ten-month injury lay-off.


But on Northampton’s left wing is a certain George North who is also back to full fitness and itching to continue his rich-try scoring form.

Up front all eyes will be on Wood and his blindside flanker battle with Wales international Ross Moriarty could go a long way to deciding who comes out on top in the East Midlands.

Elsewhere keep an eye out for England skipper Dylan Hartley who is on the bench for Saints but could face off with 2013 Lion Richard Hibbard if called upon while Courtney Lawes will hope to rule the skies in the Saints second row.
Friday, 7:05PM, Ulster v Munster – Kingspan Stadium
The first game of four on the slate for the Guinness PRO12 on Friday is at the Kingspan Stadium and Munster are hoping to claim their third win in a row there – something they have not achieved since the Second World War.

Some Ireland internationals have been rested with their upcoming clash with the All Blacks in mind but there are star names for LionsWatch to keep an eye out for all over the pitch.

Ulster included their Ireland trio of Paddy Jackson, Luke Marshall and Craig Gilroy in a backline that also includes the irrepressible Charles Piutau.


Munster meanwhile have both Peter O’Mahony and Tommy O’Donnell in the back row in a flanker match-up with fellow Ireland internationals Robbie Diack and Sean Reidy that looks mouth-watering on paper.
Friday, 7:35PM, Glasgow Warriors v Benetton Treviso – Scotstoun
Tommy Seymour, the top try scorer in the Guinness PRO12 after six rounds, returns for Glasgow Warriors in a star-studded backline that will take on Treviso.

2013 Lion Stuart Hogg retains the No.15 jersey as Gregor Townsend looks for a response from his side’s emotional defeat at Thomond Park in Europe last week.

Scotland internationals Alex Dunbar and Mark Bennett are paired in midfield while Finn Russell and Henry Pyrgos are the half-back pairing.

Up front Jonny Gray – the top tackle maker in Europe’s opening two rounds – continues in the second row while Simone Favaro comes in at openside to take on his former side.
Friday, 7:35PM, Edinburgh v Zebre – Murrayfield
Down the M8 and Edinburgh – fresh from their thrilling win over Harlequins in Europe last weekend – are back at Murrayfield to take on Zebre.

LionsWatch recommends keeping an eye on the Scottish side’s back row where international openside John Hardie makes his return to the starting XV.


Youngster Magnus Bradbury – who has been invited to train with Scotland this autumn so impressive has his form been of late – shifts to No.8.

And full-back Blair Kinghorn – sublime against Quins last time out – gets another chance to shine in the No.15 jersey.
Friday, 7:35PM, Cardiff Blues v Scarlets – Cardiff Arms Park
The battle of the Shingler brothers will catch some people’s eye at Cardiff Arms Park on Friday night.

Aaron and Steven Shingler played together at the Scarlets – althought Steven also spent time at London Irish – but tonight they face off on opposing sides for the first time.  

Aaron – a flanker with eight Wales caps – is still with the Scarlets while younger brother Steven moved to the Blues this past summer in search of more fly-half game time.

ScarletsTV | @aaronshingler previews @cardiff_blues derby clash #GUINNESSPRO12

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In addition to that sibling rivalry, there is plenty of other Lions intrigue on show.

The likes of Sam Warburton and Alex Cuthbert have been rested but the Blues have a backline packed with internationals as Cory Allen, Matthew Morgan and Tom James are all picked to start.

They also include 2009 Lion Matthew Rees on the bench while the Scarlets pack includes John Barclay and Olympic silver medallist in the 7s in Rio, James Davies, returns from injury to take his place on the bench.

Rhys Patchell – who left the Blues in the summer – gets the No.10 shirt to take on his former club for the first time. 

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