Helter-skelter Premiership action is wire brush for rusty stars as England grow in strength for Six Nations climax

Bob Baker
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Newcastle Falcons v Saracens - Aviva Premiership
Billy Vunipola (far left) returned from injury for Saracens at the weekend (Source: Getty)

For a club’s fringe players, the Six Nations provides opportunities to accrue a run of games that can build coaches’ confidence in the consistency and repeatability of favourable performances.

International stars will normally only appear at their clubs in order to receive treatment from physiotherapists who are most familiar with the imperfections of their physical structures.

At a push you may see an Owen Farrell or James Haskell infrequently casting an eye over the training paddock, but in the main the most is made of any down-time afforded, providing respite from the unrelenting intensity of national training.

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Consequently, those Premiership fixtures falling within the Six Nations window often lack some excitement and quality, but this weekend proved to be an anomaly.

Although the core national squads remain together, a number of favourably timed injury returns coupled with the effect of a handful of Test players remaining some way short of requisite game-time, the domestic league received an injection of stardust.

That’s before mention is made of the additional international recruits that English clubs keep finding the monetary firepower to attract.


Bath called upon Anthony Watson and the Welsh couplet of Luke Charteris and Toby Faletau, the latter of whom spent most of Saturday afternoon fracturing the enthusiastic Wasps defensive line before ending on the wrong side of a 3-24 scoreline.

Wasps hooker Tommy Taylor, who sits behind Dylan Hartley and Jamie George in the England pecking order, gave a distinguished performance and, after making a clean break found man-of-the-match Kurtley Beale on his shoulder.

He deftly offloaded, enabling the effervescent Australian to pick a brilliant arc on which to navigate his way to the try line.

The sodden faithful of the Recreation Ground were not only treated to an unrelenting downpour but also to Wasps’ latest galactico, Willie Le Roux, who allowed Watson not a penny piece on which to manoeuvre, shutting him down before dazzling with speed of foot.

In an opposite corner of the country, Saracens named brothers Mako and Billy Vunipola in their starting XV to face Newcastle Falcons, with a dominant 72-minute return of Billy stoking expectations of a role for England against Scotland at Twickenham on Saturday.

Full strength

As Watson and the Vunipoli gained valuable game-time, England’s stars continue to align.

Timely returns mean that Eddie Jones’s men are well on the way to hitting full strength ahead of two pivotal challenges.

The weekend’s fast-paced fixtures have been the wiriest of brushes, removing all traces of residual rustiness, and with more than 30 tries scored across the round, the Premiership’s rude health can only bode well for the most important of international fixtures that remain.

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