Weekend Preview: Salesi Ma’afu handed baptism of fire by brave Saints


Rugby Union Correspondent

Castres v Northampton Today 3.40pm

Australia is not generally the place to go looking for a tight-head prop capable of anchoring the scrum in a new age of set-piece contestability: the Wallaby nation has been creaking in this area since Andrew Blades called it a day after the World Cup triumph in 1999. Yet Northampton have invested a good deal of money and no little faith in Salesi Ma’afu, a Sydneysider who played a year of Test rugby in 2010 before disappearing off the international radar.

Ma’afu has taken a while to climb the Franklin’s Gardens ladder –  rumour had it that he could have been fitter when he arrived in the Midlands – but he is being thrown headlong into the Heineken Cup fires today. It could hardly be a more significant senior debut, given the potency of the French champions’ pack.

Northampton travel with all four of their major summer signings in the starting line-up and will also have the benefit of Luther Burrell’s considerable presence in midfield. If Burrell, who has recovered from an arm  injury at express speed, puts on a  decent show against formidable  opposition, the England selectors will be interested in his services at Twickenham next month.

Harlequins v Scarlets Today 3.40pm

Nick Easter’s sojourn in the second row is over for the time being. The former England forward returns to the No 8 position for this afternoon’s meeting with the most attack-minded of the Welsh regions and he can expect to find himself gasping for air if both sides hit their straps.

The Scarlets are unlikely to scare the Londoners in the tight areas, but they look extremely useful in the back row, where the scavenging Scottish breakaway John Barclay is now in situ, and have some real eye-catchers in the back division, including the Lions centre Jonathan Davies, one of the big hits of last summer’s victory in Australia.

Gloucester v Perpignan Today 6pm

Humiliated up front by Exeter six days ago, the West Countrymen will square up to the powerful Catalans with a remodelled tight unit featuring the Wallaby hooker Huia Edmonds, the local hard-nut prop Shaun Knight and a fresh boilerhouse pairing of Elliott Stooke and James Hudson. Ben Morgan, the struggling England No 8, is nowhere to be seen: not in the run-on team, not on the bench.

Perpignan, one of the French sides guaranteed to throw the full paintbox at this tournament, have most of their hot shots on the team list: James Hook, Lifeimi Mafi, Camille Lopez, Guilhem Guirado… and Luke Narraway, one of England’s lost talents. He will be making a sentimental return to Kingsholm, where he played until the start of last season.

Exeter v Cardiff Blues Tomorrow 12.45pm

The Devonians, flush from their record victory at Gloucester, go into this one without two of their more vibrant backs; the Welsh wing Tom James and the highly regarded young centre Sam Hill being replaced by Fetu’u Vainikolo and Jason Shoemark. Their pack is intact, however: a blessing, if last weekend’s monstering of the Cherry and Whites was anything to go by.

The Blues would have loved to play Owen Williams at outside centre  tomorrow – some good judges believe he has a bright international future at No 13 – but injury dictates otherwise. Elsewhere, the team sheet looks far stronger than recent results might suggest. It could go either way.

Toulon v Glasgow Tomorrow 3pm

Glasgow must make the demanding trip to Toulon without their Lions full-back Stuart Hogg, who has had surgery on a wrist injury and will be incapacitated for several weeks – bad news for country as well as club. Not that Gregor Townsend’s side would have expected to win on the Riviera anyway. The reigning champions are so ridiculously strong they have named Carl Hayman, Steffon Armitage, Danie Rossouw, Frédéric Michalak, Mathieu Bastareaud and Drew Mitchell on the bench!


house + home
Arts and Entertainment
tvGame of Thrones season 5 ep 4, review - WARNING: contains major spoiliers!
Arts and Entertainment
tvThe C-Word, TV review
Arts and Entertainment
The Ridiculous Six has been produced by Adam Sandler, who also stars in it
filmNew controversy after nine Native American actors walked off set
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Danny Jones was in the Wales squad for the 2013 World Cup
rugby leagueKeighley Cougars half-back was taken off after just four minutes
Life and Style
The original ZX Spectrum was simple to plug into your TV and get playing on
techThirty years on, the ZX Spectrum is back, after a fashion
Tiger Woods and Lindsey Vonn are breaking up after nearly three years together
peopleFormer couple announce separation in posts on their websites
Life and Style
Google celebrates Bartolomeo Cristofori's 360th birthday
techGoogle Doodle to the rescue
Arts and Entertainment
Haunted looks: Matthew Macfadyen and Timothy Spall star in ‘The Enfield Haunting’
tvThe Enfield Haunting, TV review
The Mattehorn stands reflected in Leisee lake near Sunnegga station on June 30, 2013 near Zermatt, Switzerland
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living