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Johnson starts for Wasps

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Ashley Johnson to make first Wasps start since failing drugs test

Ashley Johnson is to make his playing return just over a week after becoming eligible to play the sport again following a failed drugs test earlier in the year.

Wasps have a friendly against Pro-14 outfit Connacht at Athlone Park on Saturday, and the South African backrow has already earned a started berth.

Johnson was given a six-month ban after testing positive in February for the banned substance hydrochlorothiazide.

At a hearing conducted by the independent national anti-doping panel, the long-serving forward advised he mistakenly took his wife’s fat burner ‘the Secret’ rather than his own legitimate supplement ‘Nutrilean.’

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The hearing concluded that Johnson acted without intent, finding “no significant fault or negligence” on his part and decided six months to be an appropriate period of ineligibility, which ended on August 6.

Speaking last month, the 119kg looseforward said: “I was horrified when I got the test results and once we tracked back and worked out I had inadvertently taken the wrong tablet.

“I completely accept that I am responsible for everything in my body. Drug use is not something I would ever condone, and from now on I will be extra vigilant at all times.

Director of Rugby David Young will also hand Wasps debuts to six new signings.

New Zealand Maoris winger Ambrose Curtis, powerful centre Michael Le Bourgeois and flyhalf Billy Searle all claim places in an exciting backline.

Meanwhile, England Saxons lock Charlie Matthews plus back-rowers Joe Atkinson and Ben Morris wear black-and-gold for the first time in the pack.

And this number could increase to nine should England international prop Kieran Brookes, former London Scottish centre Ross Neal or England Sevens product Callum Sirker make their Wasps bows from a 12-strong bench.

Rob Miller and Marcus Watson join Curtis in a pacy back three while Juan De Jongh partners Le Bourgeois in midfield and Joe Simpson teams up with Searle at half-back.

Exciting prospects Tom West and Will Stuart partner England international Tommy Taylor in the front row, with Will Rowlands and Ashley Johnson, who captains the side, completing the forward pack.

The Coventry based side are familiar with Connacht. “We have seen plenty of them in the last few years and are expecting a really good work out,” David Young told the media today. “Our line-up for this first game does not include any England summer tourists or our more recent new arrivals. We hope to involve some of them against Ulster at the Ricoh next Friday evening.”

Wasps team to face Connacht at Dubarry Park, Athlone (3pm kick off)

15. Rob Miller

14. Ambrose Curtis

13. Juan De Jongh

12. Michael Le Bourgeois

11. Marcus Watson

10. Billy Searle

9. Joe Simpson

1. Tom West

2. Tommy Taylor

3. Will Stuart

4. Will Rowlands

5. Charlie Matthews

6. Ashley Johnson

7. Joe Atkinson

8. Ben Morris

Replacements –

16. Tom Cruse

17. Ben Harris

18. Kieran Brookes

19. Tim Cardall

20. Tom Willis

21. Will Porter

22. Jimmy Gopperth

23. Gaby Lovobalavu

24. Ross Neal

25. Josh Bassett

26. Callum Sirker

27. Kearnan Myall

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Ashley Johnson to make first Wasps start since failing drugs test