Source: INPHO

Scarratt returns for Lightning against Bristol Bears

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Emily Scarratt makes her eagerly-anticipated return for Loughborough Lightning after 13 months out injured on Friday night against Bristol Bears (kick-off: 7.45pm).

The Red Roses star has been selected at inside centre for the Allianz Premiership Women’s Rugby showdown at Ashton Gate, as she makes her first appearance in an African Violet shirt since January 2023 after successfully rehabilitating from neck surgery.

Head Coach Nathan Smith was pleased to welcome back the 108-times capped international into the matchday squad for the first time since he joined the Club last summer.

“It is big for the group,” said Smith. “We’ve got a lot of young players who should look up to people like that and rightly so. I think they’re really excited to play with someone of that magnitude. The Lightning medical team and the RFU medical team have done an exceptional job on her.

“Scaz coming back is an absolute testament to her character in terms of what keeps her motivated to want to play.

“I know she is absolutely laser-focused on getting back on the pitch and back to the form she has been in previously in her career.”

Scarratt’s return sees Helen Nelson switch to full-back on the occasion of her 50th Lightning appearance, while Ellen Scantlebury makes her first Allianz PWR start after arriving from the bench in Round One at Saracens.

“I have been really impressed with Scants ever since the Allianz Cup,” added Smith. “What we’re proud of at Loughborough Lightning is the pathway that we have.

“Scants has been killing it in the BUCS league, she has been killing it in training. If you’re good enough, you’re going to play, regardless of the size of the game. I am really excited about watching her, she is exactly everything I want in a Lightning player in terms of her mindset and physicality.”

There’s one change in the pack as second row Catherine O’Donnell misses out with a leg injury; her place is taken by Hallie Taufoou, who makes her first start for Lightning since rejoining the Club last summer.

Sara Svoboda comes in for the injured Emma Wassell among the replacements and is in line for her first minutes since Round One. There’s a return for Carmela Morrall too while Carys Williams-Morris, who started against Leicester Tigers last time out, wears the number 23 shirt.

Friday night’s encounter is being televised live on TNT Sports and hosts Bristol Bears, who sit one place above Lightning in the PWR table, have sold more than 2,000 tickets ahead of the game.
“It’s a really exciting challenge,” said Smith. “There’s no pressure on us. No-one expects anything from us, we are just going to go there and be really brave on both sides of the ball and really enjoy it.”

BRISTOL BEARS v LOUGHBOROUGH LIGHTNING
Allianz Premiership Women’s Rugby, Round 12
Friday 23 February 2024
Ashton Gate
Kick-off: 7.45pm

15 Helen Nelson
14 Ellen Scantlebury
13 Bulou Mataitoga
12 Emily Scarratt
11 Bo Westcombe-Evans
10 Helena Rowland
9 Megan Davey

1 Katie Trevarthen
2 Kathryn Treder
3 Christine Belisle
4 Lilli Ives Campion
5 Hallie Taufoou
6 Rachel Malcolm (c)
7 Sadia Kabeya
8 Daisy Hibbert-Jones

Replacements:
16 Maja Meuller
17 Amelia Williams
18 Catherine Wells
19 Abby Duguid
20 Sara Svoboda
21 Jess Weaver
22 Carmela Morrall
23 Carys Williams-Morris

With thanks to Loughborough Lightning

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