The out-half, who can also play centre, winger and full-back is currently playing in the Currie Cup but has been given the opportunity to play for Saracens according to Western Province coach John Dobson.
“If he doesn’t go to the World Cup, Damian could have an opportunity to go to Saracens on a short-term loan. If that does come about it will be a good thing for him as he can learn a lot through a short stint in the UK. Saracens, as you know, have a very good kicking game. If he goes there he will learn a lot about the game management that is expected of fly-half and he will come back better equipped to do well for us in Super Rugby. Our WP captain Chris van Zyl played for Saracens last year, enjoyed it and learnt a lot from the experience and was then back to take part in our pre-season,” he said.
As well as gaining experience Willemse could get some vital game time and be match-fit should an injury occur to someone in the 31-man squad and he would therefore be available to slot in.
Having come back from a knee injury Willemse is preparing for Western Province’s final Currie Cup game this weekend against the Cheetahs. Dobson is sure that Willemse could cut it at the reigning European and Premiership champions, but nothing is confirmed that he will head to England.
“Damian is a special kid off the field as well as on it and is a deep thinker on the game so I don’t think he’s going to be too badly knocked if he isn’t in the World Cup squad, but he does want to make a point to the national selectors. In his mind, he is still playing for a chance to be in the World Cup squad. Damian showed us last week when he came on against Griquas what a good attacking fly-half he is and we are expecting a lot from him against the Cheetahs. He is really motivated to do well for us and hopefully push our season out by another few weeks, but if he is not in the World Cup squad when it is announced on Monday he will then give some thought to Saracens,” he added.
The Springboks’ World Cup squad is set to be announced on Monday and it seems unlikely Willemse will be involved which would open the door for him to cover for the likes of England’s Owen Farrell while they go to Japan.
Exeter provide Nowell injury update
Having spent much of the current campaign working his way back from surgery on his foot in October, then a hamstring tear just days before he was set to return to action, the 28-year-old is set for more time on the sidelines after picking up a knee ligament injury in Exeter’s Gallagher Premiership victory over Worcester Warriors.
In what was only his third appearance of the season, the England and British Lions winger limped out of the action during the second half of the Chiefs’ 41-10 success at Sandy Park.
In what has been a season to forget for the 28-year-old Cornishman, who has missed much of the campaign as he recovered from surgery on his foot in October, then tearing a hamstring days before he was set to return to action.
Addressing the media ahead of next week’s Premiership trip to London Irish, Baxter was able to give an update on Nowell
“We have got a few bumps and bruises this week,” said Baxter. “None of it looks long term, other than Jack Nowell who it looks like will be out for at least a few weeks. He has unfortunately sprained his MCL in that awkward tackle, just the way he fell.
“Again that is a bit of a crippling blow for him having only just got back fit and looking good and sharp. We know he had really taken his time on his rehab to get back right 100 percent so that is a disappointment for him and for us.
“I hope this won’t be the end of his season and we will see him before the end.”
Chiefs have four more regular-season games and with a play-off semi-final likely and then potential final the following week, making it a maximum of six games remaining over a seven-week time frame.
Discussing Nowell’s emotional reaction to the bad news, Baxter added: “Initially, straight after the game he was pretty distraught but he is a really positive character and he looks for the positives whenever he can.
“I had a couple of chats with him this week, one on the phone and a couple in person and all he is focusing on now is to get himself fit and available for some possible late season games. He is brilliant like that and we are going to give him every opportunity to have some more input in our season, hopefully.”
By Mark Stevens
Wasps CEO issues open letter to fans
Open letter starts:
Dear Wasps Supporters,
I hope you, your family and friends are all safe and well.
The last twelve months have been unlike any other we have ever faced. We’ve lived through numerous lockdowns, been forced to isolate from those we love, had our daily lives restricted in ways we never imagined and been unable to attend live sport for well over a year now. Even though matches have been taking place since last August, the impact of not having our fantastic supporters in the stadium has been felt by all of us – players, coaches and staff alike.
Clearly results haven’t been where we’d like them to be recently, with the men’s team unable to replicate the highs of last season. That’s been frustrating for all of us, as has the loss of key players to injury, but it’s part of the game and we’ll learn from the experience and come back stronger. We have a long term plan in place and inevitably there will be some bumps in the road. However, we are all excited at the potential of the squad, the wider coaching and backroom staff and have faith that we are on the right track. Our Academy is in good shape and we were delighted to add another eight under 18 players to our Senior Academy recently.
Despite the frustrations of not being as competitive as we had hoped this season, the ongoing support we have received from our fans has been incredible and is something that each and every one of us at Wasps are genuinely grateful for.
We will focus on finishing this season as strong as we can before starting to look towards the 2021-22 campaign and beyond. There is a huge amount of work going on behind the scenes to ensure we are well positioned to hit the ground running next season. An important part of our strategy will be the opening of our new elite training centre in Henley-in-Arden. The new site is currently under construction, pitches are being laid and, when complete in the summer, it will be one of the finest high-performance facilities in the game.
Away from the training ground, we are also cautiously optimistic about a return to normality at the Arena. We will of course follow the government’s roadmap, but plans are underway to reopen our conferencing, event facilities and hotel in the next week, and then the long-awaited return of you, our fans, soon after.
In line with government guidance regarding outdoor sporting events, we are now preparing for the return of supporters for our final home game of the season again Leicester Tigers on Saturday 12 June. These plans are currently being finalised and full details will be communicated once we have sign off from the various authorities regarding capacities and ticket allocations. We are anticipating being able to share this information shortly. I know the players can’t wait to see you all again and it will be great to finish the season in front of supporters.
We are well aware that we were unable to deliver three games this season, which we included as part of your Season Member Plus ticket, and the Ticket Office team will be in touch during the summer about these fixtures.
For those of you who have enquired, we kindly ask you to remain patient and to keep an eye out later this month for news on the launch of Season Memberships for 2021-22.
I would also like to take this opportunity to make you aware that the Club will be inviting supporters to join us this summer for the first in a series of fan forums. I’m keen to update you on both our on and off field plans, as well as give you the chance to meet myself and key members of the playing department to ask any questions you may have.
Thank you once again for your loyal support and look forward to seeing you soon.
Stephen Vaughan – Group CEO
Open Letter ends:
Harlequins name team to travel to Leicester Tigers
A backline re-jig changes see Luke Northmore switch from the twelve to the thirteen jersey, with Joe Marchant starting on the right wing and Tyrone Green at fullback.
Back row James Chisholm returns from injury for the first time since March to take a place amongst the Impact Players, while England Sevens man Will Edwards and Australian international Ben Tapuai replace Lang and the injured Paul Lasike on the bench in the 22 and 23 jerseys respectively.
On the hunt for a fifth consecutive win against The Tigers, General Billy Millard said: “Leicester are a team that have probably returned to their old school principles of late under Steve Borthwick. They are a well-organised team with a good set-piece and kicking game, so we’re well versed with the challenge we’ll face this week.
“We’ve had a couple of changes to our team over the last month or two, but we’ve been really pleased with the level of performances we’ve seen from the players, which is a credit to the depth of our squad and the quality of the mindset the players have at the moment.
“We’re looking forward to taking each week game by game as we build towards a big finish to the season. Starting with Leicester this week.”
Harlequins Starting XV
1. Joe Marler (220)
2. Scott Baldwin (37)
3. Wilco Louw (23)
4. Matt Symons (58)
5. Stephan Lewies (30) – Captain
6. Tom Lawday (34)
7. Jack Kenningham (8)
8. Alex Dombrandt (71)
9. Danny Care (301)
10. Marcus Smith (105)
11. Nathan Earle (38)
12. James Lang (79)
13. Luke Northmore (23)
14. Joe Marchant (107)
15. Tyrone Green (16)
16. Joe Gray (168)
17. Santiago Garcia Botta (32)
18. Will Collier (183)
19. Dino Lamb (42)
20. James Chisholm (108)
21. Martin Landajo (31)
22. Will Edwards (1)
23. Ben Tapuai (40)
Unavailable for selection:
Andre Esterhuizen, Mike Brown
Unavailable due to injury:
Aaron Morris, Cadan Murley, Craig Trenier, Jordan Els, Louis Lynagh, Paul Lasike, Scott Steele, Will Evans
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