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6 more Lions players - including Farrell - make Premiership return

By Liam Heagney

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Six more of Warren Gatland’s Lions tour picks, including England skipper Owen Farrell, have been chosen by their Premiership clubs this weekend for an earlier than initially anticipated return to action. England players who were away with the Lions were all entitled to have a five-week holiday break following the August 7 last match of the tour in Cape Town and a four-week pre-season before becoming eligible to play again. They were also to have a separate week’s rest prior to the autumn internationals.

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If that nine-week stipulation was applied across the board, players would have been off-limits in the Premiership until the weekend of October 16. However, a variety of negotiations have taken place between all the various stakeholders and the length of the break is now being applied on a player-by-player basis.

Bristol and Bath announced on Thursday that Kyle Sinckler and Anthony Watson (as a sub) would both be involved in this Friday night’s derby match at Ashton Gate and it has now emerged that six more Lions will now also feature in this weekend’s Premiership round three.

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Ollie Phillips guests on the latest RugbyPass Offload
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Ollie Phillips guests on the latest RugbyPass Offload

Newly promoted Saracens have a Saturday afternoon assignment at Leicester and they have included Farrell, who played twice off the Lions Test bench in South Africa, and hooker Jamie George at hooker. Farrell’s inclusion will create much intrigue as the England skipper will go head-to-head at out-half against his national team colleague George Ford.

Elsewhere, Northampton have included both Courtney Lawes and Dan Biggar for their home game with London Irish. Lawes will start from the bench but Wales out-half Biggar will wear the Saints No10 shirt. The regulations surrounding non-England Lions players who play for Premiership clubs were different from the England Lions as they were only entitled to just the five-week holiday.

That would theoretically have freed Northampton to play Biggar in round one of the league season but they held off until this weekend’s round three, as did Exeter who have chosen Scotland skipper Stuart Hogg at full-back for their trip on Sunday to Sale. Gloucester, meanwhile, have included Scottish Lion Chris Harris on their bench versus Worcester. Of the eight players back in action this weekend just two – Biggar and Lawes – featured in the series-deciding third Lions Test.

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Of Hogg, Exeter boss Rob Baxter said on Thursday: “He looks real motivated, looks really sharp in training this week,” said the Chiefs boss at his weekly media briefing. “I spoke to him at the start of the week and said, ‘Right Hoggy, how are you feeling, are you ready to go?’ ‘Yeah, ready to go. Feel really good.’”

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6 more Lions players - including Farrell - make Premiership return

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