Source: Loughborough Lightning

Wells to make Lightning debut against Gloucester-Hartpury

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Catherine Wells will make her Loughborough Lightning debut in this weekend’s Allianz Premiership Women’s Rugby clash with Gloucester-Hartpury.

Head coach Nathan Smith has selected the England Under-20s prop to start at loosehead for Saturday’s showdown with the reigning Allianz PWR champions at the Alpas Arena (kick-off: 2pm).

The 21-year-old joined Lightning in December as she returned to the elite level of women’s rugby following the demise of her former side Worcester Warriors and was an unused replacement against Sale Sharks and Exeter Chiefs before Christmas.

“Catherine has adapted to life at Loughborough Lightning really well,” said Smith. “It is a big culture shift coming to Loughborough, with the training demands and expectations on her. She has dealt with that well and has settled in nicely.”

Katie Trevarthen, who has started all five league games this season and made a staggering 30 tackles last time out against Exeter Chiefs in Round 6, is selected among the replacements.

The only other change to the starting line-up sees Chloe Rollie miss out with a foot injury and is replaced by Bulou Mataitoga (pictured), as the versatile USA Eagles international starts her third match of the season in a different position after previously being selected on the wing and in the centres.

Maja Meuller returns as the replacement hooker and back row forward Hallie Taufoou is included on the bench which contains six forwards and two backs.

Inside centre Carmela Morrall makes her fourth consecutive start in her first outing since being nominated for the RPA’s Most Valuable Player under the age of 23 for her performances in December, when she scored three tries and made 237 metres with ball in hand.

Lightning players enjoyed some down time over the Christmas period before returning to training this week ahead of the Gloucester-Hartpury match – with Smith noticing a spring in the step of his players.

He said: “Wednesday night’s team session was the best team session we have had since I have been here. Essentially, we had two mixed 15s going at each other with a development group working alongside that.

“Competition for places is through the roof which you can see by the strength of the players who have not made the 23 but also the strength of the replacements, to come and really add impetus within the game. Competition for places is quite fierce which is exactly what we needed and what we aimed to get at the start of preseason.”

Opponents Gloucester-Hartpury have made a near-perfect start to their title defence winning all four of their games so far, with three bonus points secured along the way – including in their 31-19 victory at Twickenham Stadium on 30 December as part of the Big Game double header that preceded the men’s clash between the two Clubs.

“At the end of the day they are champions for a reason,” said Smith. “They are a great team. Nobody expects anything from us, which is a great place to be at. We are really excited to go there and build on the performance from Exeter. If I see what I saw against Exeter versus Gloucester, then Gloucester are in for one hell of a game.”

While Lightning took a break from action as Gloucester-Hartpury played last weekend, there was a welcome return to action for one of their longest-serving players; Jenny Maxwell.

The Scotland international scrum-half last wore an African Violet shirt in March 2022 after being sidelined with a major knee injury suffered during a Six Nations match with Italy.

As part of her rehabilitation, the 31-year-old joined Edinburgh on a short-term loan and made her return during a 20-minute spell of Saturday’s 28-12 victory over Glasgow Warriors.

“Jenny going to Edinburgh is about making sure she is in the best possible position for Lightning moving forward,” Smith explained. “She needs to play rugby. However, her return to play doesn’t lend itself to coming straight back into the Lightning squad. We are really proud of her, the medical team at Loughborough and Scotland have done an exceptional job with her.

“I feel her determination to come back from such an horrific injury has been incredible. It’s testament to her character that she has come back with a hunger to get back in the Lightning team which she has shown by her commitment to go off at Christmas and play for Edinburgh and show us that she is getting ready to come back in here. We are really pleased and proud of her.”

GLOUCESTER-HARTPURY v LOUGHBOROUGH LIGHTNING
Allianz Premiership Women’s Rugby, Round 7
Saturday 6 January 2024
Alpas Arena
Kick-off: 2pm

15 Bulou Mataitoga
14 Georgina Tasker (vc)
13 Helena Rowland
12 Carmela Morrall
11 Bo Westcombe-Evans
10 Helen Nelson
9 Megan Davey

1 Catherine Wells
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 Mueller
17 Katie Trevarthen
18 Grace Clifford
19 Lili Ives Campion
20 Abby Duguid
21 Hallie Taufoou
22 Jess Weaver
23 Carys Williams-Morris

With thanks to Loughborough Lightning

 

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