Source: Loughborough Lightning

O’Donnell returns as Lightning make 3 changes for Trailfinders clash

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Loughborough Lightning have made three changes to their starting line-up ahead of this weekend’s Allianz Premiership Women’s Rugby clash with Trailfinders Women at Loughborough University.

Scotland international Helen Nelson missed out on the win away at Harlequins in Round 8 through injury but returns to feature at inside centre with Helena Rowland remaining at fly-half for Saturday’s match, which has been relocated to Epinal Way due to a frozen pitch at cinch Stadium at Franklin’s Gardens (kick-off: 2pm).

Carmela Morrall misses out with a knock picked up in the thrilling 29-26 victory at The Stoop
as wingers Georgina Tasker – who scored twice last week – and Bo Westcombe-Evans are partnered on the wings for the seventh league game this term.

After beating six Quins defenders and making 116 metres with ball in hand, Chloe Rollie retains her place at fullback for Lightning’s third home league game of the 2023/24 season.

Scrum-half Meg Davey wears the number nine shirt for an eighth successive league game while Bulou Mataitoga remains at outside centre.

Red Roses star Catherine O’Donnell was a late withdrawal a week ago due to illness, but the influential lock – who scored twice in her last outing against Gloucester-Hartpury – returns at second row and packs down alongside Emma Wassell, who tops the league’s lineout takes so far with 36.

Long-serving prop Katie Trevarthen returns to the starting line-up on the occasion of her 90th Lightning appearance, as Catherine Wells misses out through injury.

She packs down alongside hooker Kathryn Treder, who has scored four tries in her last three games and played a key role in Lightning achieving a 100 per cent record from their 13 lineout throws against Quins – the highest success rate of any Allianz PWR game this season.

The loosehead cover comes in the form of Isla Curphey, as she prepares for her first outing since the victory over Sale Sharks in Round 5.

There could be debut in the front row as tighthead prop Tiwaah Adjei-Ansere is named among the replacements after joining from Buckingham RFC and impressing in training. The new signing provides cover for Christine Belisle who starts for a third successive match.

Sadia Kabeya made the most tackles in Round 8 with 24 to top the league’s average successful hits made per match (21.5) as well as the dominant tackles per game table (2.7).

The livewire flanker packs down on the openside with captain Rachel Malcolm ­and Daisy Hibbert-Jones as the back row remains unchanged for a sixth successive game.

Maja Meuller, Hallie Taufoou, Jess Weaver and Carys Williams-Morris retain their places on the bench. Abby Duguid switches from the starting line-up to the replacements and Lili Ives Campion comes in to form part of a six-player strong group of forwards awaiting their turn on the sidelines.

“We are very lucky after a good win to be able to freshen up by bringing in someone of Cath’s [O’Donnell] experience,” said head coach Nathan Smith. “It is the same with Helen [Nelson]. Helen and Helena [Rowland] are two extremely experienced international players which we’re looking forward to play 10 and 12. It should add a little bit of a difference in variation of play which will be good to see.

“We’re pleased and proud of how we turned things around against Quins to get the win but that will count for little if we back that up with a defeat.

“We’ve got to go and back that up with another good performance in front of our supporters who we hope will come and cheer us on at Epinal Way.”

Allianz Premiership Women’s Rugby, Round 9
Saturday 20 January 2024
Epinal Way, Loughborough University
Kick-off: 2pm

15 Chloe Rollie
14 Georgina Tasker (vc)
13 Bulou Mataitoga
12 Helen Nelson
11 Bo Westcombe-Evans
10 Helena Rowland
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 Maja Meuller
17 Isla Curphey
18 Tiwaah Adjei-Ansere
19 Abby Duguid
20 Lili Ives Campion
21 Hallie Taufoou
22 Jess Weaver
23 Carys Williams-Morris