Aviva Premiership - Round 1 Preview
Haskell starts for Wasps against Quins
ESPN Staff
August 31, 2012

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Wasps' James Haskell avoids a tackle during his side's Guinness Premiership clash with Worcester at Adams Park in High Wycombe, England on September 14, 2008.
James Haskell is back in Wasps colours for their match with Harlequins © Getty Images

London Wasps tackle Harlequins in the first match of the new 2012-13 Aviva Premiership season at the traditional Twickenham double header.

Wasps will be hoping for a better than campaign than the last where they only guaranteed their Premiership survival on the last day of the season. Dai Young has made a raft of signings over the summer and a few of them get the nod for their match with Harlequins at HQ. Italian duo Andrea Masi, Fabio Staibano and James Haskell all start with Tom Palmer, T Rhys Thomas and Ashley Johnson named on their bench.

Young admitted that there were some "pretty tough decisions to be made" ahead of the match and he is hopeful that some of his other personnel will be fit for next weekend's trip to Bath.

"Stephen Jones has been struggling over the past couple of weeks with his back and Lee Thomas with a strain in his knee; but we are hoping they will be available for the second game," Young said. "We haven't considered Chris Bell or James Bailey either for this game with both almost recovered from their injuries, but again that's another two to add to our options very soon."

The champions will be captained by England skipper Chris Robshaw with Nick Evans making his 100th appearance for Quins. It is the same pack that started the 2011-12 Premiership final while Danny Care starts alongside Evans at half-back with George Lowe shifting to the wing with Ugo Monye absent. And Robshaw is hoping to draw inspiration from the Olympics throughout this campaign.

"It was an incredible 12 months but it is about not resting on your laurels, about going to improve on what we have achieved," Robshaw said. "We have been looking at the Olympics and what cycling did, trying to earn a small percentage here and there.

"I watched David Rudisha lead from the front in the 800m. That couldn't fail to leave a mark on me. I also watched Usain Bolt win the 200m for the second successive Olympics, despite all the pressure on him. Good teams can win a title, great teams back it up."

Saturday's second match at Twickenham sees Saracens tackle London Irish and Sarries have handed a debut to England winger Chris Ashton. Schalk Brits and Kelly Brown make their return from injury while rugby league convert Joel Tomkins gets the nod at outside centre alongside Brad Barritt.

Danny Cipriani in action for Sale during pre-season, Sale v Leinster, Salford City Stadium, Manchester, England, August 24, 2012
Danny Cipriani is on the bench for Sale © PA Photos

The Exiles have also handed starts to some of their new signings: Tomas O'Leary, Scott Lawson and George Skivington. England centre Jonathan Joseph lines up alongside Sailosi Tagicakibau in the midfield while Steve Shingler starts at fly-half alongside O'Leary. Second-row Bryn Evans captains the side with club captain Declan Danaher on the bench with new faces Shane Geraghty and Cai Griffiths joining him.

Elsewhere, star signing Danny Cipriani will have to wait for his first Sale start with Bryan Redpath opting to name him among their replacements for their trip to the Exeter Chiefs. But while Cipriani is benched, Richie Gray is handed a start with fellow new signings Eifion Lewis-Roberts and Corne Uys also getting the nod.

Exeter have also bolstered their squad in the off-season with eight new recruits but only two of them start against the Sharks - Will Chudley and Ian Whitten. Tom Hayes skippers the side in the second-row with Tom Johnson and James Scaysbrook starting in their back-row.

Gloucester have also opted to blood some of their new recruits for their match at Kingsholm with the Northampton Saints. Billy Twelvetrees starts alongside Mike Tindall in the centres with Ben Morgan packing down at the back of their scrum with Alex Brown captaining the side from the second-row. Huia Edmonds and Martyn Thomas will have to be content with a spot amongst the replacements.

For the Saints, Ken Pisi starts on the wing with other new signings Dom Waldouck and GJ van Velze also playing. Dylan Hartley captains the team with Rhys Oakley and Luther Burrell named on the bench. And one other notable inclusion is England flanker Tom Wood who endured an injury plagued 2011-12 season.

Leicester fly-half Toby Flood bursts through to score, London Irish v Leicester Tigers, Aviva Premiership, Madejski Stadium, Reading, England, March 25, 2012
Toby Flood starts for Leicester at fly-half © Getty Images

Saturday's action will be completed by Worcester Warriors' match with Bath at Sixways. Richard Hill has made a raft of signings in both his backroom staff and on the pitch and one of these - Dean Schofield - captains the team. He is one of five preparing to take their Warriors bow with Semisi Taulava, John Andress, David Lemi and Josh Matavesi also starting. Three of Bath's players will make their first start in the Premiership for the West Country side with Kyle Eastmond, Dominic Day and Paul James all getting the nod. Olly Barkley starts at fly-half with Francois Louw named at openside despite his recent Springboks call up.

And on Sunday, the Premiership will get their first glimpse of London Welsh as they take on the Leicester Tigers at the Kassam Stadium. It will be a baptism of fire for many of the Exiles and they have named new signings Tom Arscott, Phil Mackenzie, Sonny Parker, Franck Montanella, Neil Briggs, Paulica Ion, Kirill Kulemin, Ed Williamson and Dan Browne in their starting XV.

Two of the Tigers will also pull on the Leicester shirt for the first time in the top-flight with Vereniki Goneva named on the wing and Rob Andrew in the second-row. Toby Flood starts at fly-half alongside Micky Young while Tom Youngs gets the nod at hooker ahead of George Chuter.

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