Itoje returns after injury ruled him out of England reckoning

Maro Itoje will make his first start since October when Saracens face Bath today, after completing his recovery from a broken hand.

England's Maro Itoje.
England's Maro Itoje.

The 22-year-old has missed England’s autumn Test series with the hand problem he suffered in Saracens’ 44-26 win over Scarlets on October 22.

But now World Rugby’s breakthrough player of the year is fit for his comeback, boosting Saracens’ ranks ahead of this month’s two European Champions Cup rounds.

Hosts Bath welcome back five internationals for the Aviva Premiership clash, with Wales’ Taulupe Faletau and England pair Dave Attwood and Semesa Rokoduguni leading the returning contingent.

Rugby director Todd Blackadder hopes the influence of the returning Test stars can help the likes of fly-half Dan Bowden combat the sizeable threat of reigning European and Premiership champions Saracens.

“It’s been great having the international guys available for the game, they give us a bit of extra experience in key positions,” Blackadder said.

“Saracens are a good quality side and they are a team which performs no matter where they go, whether they are at hope or on the road.

“It is one of those games where there is a lot at stake for us and we want to perform.

“We’ve picked Daniel (Bowden) because of his experience.

“He has been in the hot seat before. He has got to come on and be the kingpin decision-maker.”

South Africa wing JP Pietersen and Samoa pro Logovi’i Mulipola return to the Leicester squad to face Northampton at Welford Road, the duo back after international duty.

Mike Fitzgerald has shaken off a knock to start in the back row, while Jono Kitto slots in at scrum-half. Pietersen and fit-again England centre Manu Tuilagi will offer the Tigers plenty of experience off the bench.

Wales wing George North and France number eight Louis Picamoles go straight back into Northampton’s starting XV after autumn Test duty.

Ben Foden will captain the Saints from full-back for the east midlands derby, with JJ Hanrahan slotting in at inside centre for his first start of the season.

Gloucester will field an unchanged starting XV for the third week in a row for the west-country derby clash with Bristol at Kingsholm.

Scotland scrum-half Greig Laidlaw and Wales flanker Ross Moriarty take seats on the bench after completing autumn Test duties, as Gloucester gear up for their first match against Bristol in almost eight years.

Acting head coach Mark Tainton has made four changes to his Bristol side, with Jack Wallace and Adrian Jarvis bedding in to the back line.

Jason Woodward switches to full-back and Jack Tovey moves to outside centre.

Rob Hawkins starts at hooker and Jon Fisher will partner Mark Sorenson at lock.

Tomorrow, Canada lock Evan Olmstead replaces the suspended Calum Green for Newcastle against Harlequins on his return from international duty, with Mike Delany at full-back and Alex Tait on the wing.