Source: Loughborough Lightning

Lightning make one change for Exeter Chiefs as Rowland returns

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Loughborough Lighting have made just one change to their starting line-up as they take on Exeter Chiefs this weekend at cinch Stadium at Franklin’s Gardens.

England international Helena Rowland returns at outside centre for Saturday’s Allianz Premiership Women’s Rugby Round 6 encounter (kick-off: 2pm), but otherwise head coach Nathan Smith has stuck with the run-out side that secured a bonus-point victory away at Sale Sharks last weekend.

However, there are changes on the bench for Lightning’s last game of 2023; Loughborough revert back to a 5/3 split of forwards and backs as Bulou Mataitoga joins the replacements, and front rowers Phoebe Andrews and Grace Clifford come into the 23.

Smith’s side sit fifth in the Allianz Premiership Women’s Rugby standings after last weekend’s 24-12 win over Sale Sharks at Heywood Road, and he is hoping for more of the same on Saturday.

“We go into this match after putting in probably the first performance that has really reflected the way that we have been training, and how we’ve prepared for the game, which was really impressive,” he said.

“I was really pleased with our defensive physicality which was probably missing the week before against Bristol.

“This week against Exeter, it’s incredibly tough on Bulou to be rotated to be among the replacements – but there’s incredible competition for places here at the moment, and Helena Rowland is available and gets the nod this week. I am sure Bulou will make an impact when she enters the match.

“The challenge for us is producing back-to-back performances. I thought we played really well against Sale, but I don’t think by any means that we have peaked. So, it’s a case of how we double up.”

Visitors Exeter Chiefs won their first three games of the PWR season against Leicester Tigers, Bristol Bears and Harlequins – scoring more than 100 points in the process. Last season’s runners-up suffered their first defeat of the campaign as Gloucester-Hartpury ­­(who defeated them in the 2022/23 final) claimed a 31-27 victory at Sandy Park.

Lightning play their second league game of the season at the Gardens searching for their first victory in front of their home fans after losing to Bristol Bears in Round 4.

Smith said: “We really enjoy playing here. It’s a great stadium and pitch to play on. I think the excitement will only get greater the more we play there.

“There’s a lot of people within that group who have not played much rugby here. We want to build up a relationship and rapport with the stadium, so every time we play there we put on a performance.”

Allianz Premiership Women’s Rugby, Round 6
Saturday 23 December 2023
cinch Stadium at Franklin’s Gardens
Kick-off: 2pm

15 Chloe Rollie
14 Georgina Tasker (vc)
13 Helena Rowland
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

16 Phoebe Andrews
17 Catherine Wells
18 Grace Clifford
19 Lili Ives Campion
20 Abby Duguid
21 Jess Weaver
22 Bulou Mataitoga
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).

With thanks to Loughborough Lightning

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