Josh Watkins handed Worcester Warriors debut at Sale Sharks in Amlin Challenge Cup tie

Watkins handed Warriors debut in Amlin Cup tie

Watkins handed Warriors debut in Amlin Cup tie

First published in Sport

JOSH Watkins will make his Warriors debut when his side travel to Sale Sharks tomorrow night for round five of the Amlin Challenge Cup (8pm).

The 19-year-old Worcester-born winger is among 11 changes director of rugby Dean Ryan makes to the starting team that played at London Irish last weekend.

Fellow academy youngsters Ben Howard and Max Stelling will both feature in the side after signing first-team contracts for next season earlier this week.

Josh Matavesi and Jonny Arr, who both came on as replacements last weekend, return to the starting line-up after spells on the sidelines with injury.

The forward pack sees a reshuffle with Jeremy Becasseau, Ed Shervington and John Andress named in the front-row.

Dean Schofield, who will captain the side, is recalled to the second-row alongside Mike Williams, while Chris Jones is given a starting berth in the back-row.

Warriors name a strong bench with Aviva Premiership regulars Rob O'Donnell, James Percival, Sam Betty, Ignacio Mieres and Ravai Fatiaki among the replacements.

Ryan said: "The Amlin is an opportunity for some of the youngsters to get involved. We've done that right from the first game and we will do that again over this period.

"We'll look to utilise these guys again over the next three or four weeks to see if they have grown from their experiences.

"Sometimes growing youngsters can be difficult because sometimes they get thrust in and it's difficult to learn, especially in an environment that isn't as successful as we would like it to be.

"It's important that youngsters get space to come out and play and then they can reflect on their performances before coming back in. We have been able to do that across the competitions this season.

"The reason we have chopped and changed with selection is because nobody has really nailed down a position so that means they are still up for grabs.

"That allows some of those that have been on the fringes to have a go to try and put their hand up.”

Sale currently top Group ‘A’ and, with a potential pool-decider at Biarritz next week, are keen to give themselves every opportunity of progressing to the quarter-finals.

If the Sharks finish as one of the top four qualifiers, they will play host to one of the Heineken Cup teams that fail to qualify for the knock-out stages.

Warriors: Howard; Drauniniu, Stelling, Matavesi, Watkins; Warwick, Arr; Becasseau, Shervington, Andress, Schofield, Williams, Jones, de Carpentier, Senatore.

Replacements: Seymour, Porter, O'Donnell, Percival, Betty, Hodgson, Mieres, Fatiaki.

Sale: Miller; Brady, Leota, Tuitupou, Cueto; Cipriani, Peel; Lewis-Roberts, Jones, Thomas, Mills, Paterson, Braid, Seymour, Gaskell. Replacements: Taylor, Harrison, Cobilas, Ostrikov, Easter, Cliff, Macleod, Arscott.

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