Bristol will resume their Gallagher Premiership title push interrupted by coronavirus with Fiji superstar Semi Radradra poised to cause havoc at outside centre.
Radradra will make his debut against Saracens at Ashton Gate on Saturday after the Bears recruited the game’s most dangerous attacking player from Bordeaux and immediately deployed him in tandem with New Zealand full-back Charles Piutau.
England prop Kyle Sinckler, another box-office newcomer to the Bears, features on the bench against the relegated champions, who are missing Owen Farrell to a tight quad.
For all the talent assembled by Bristol, director of rugby Pat Lam insists it will take more than individual brilliance to topple a side he is looking to emulate.
“While we acknowledge we have some world-class players in our squad, as usual it’s more important that we channel all our excitement into a true team performance if we want to have any chance against a quality team like Saracens,” Lam said.
“We’re expecting the usual from Saracens. They’ll be tough. There’s quality there. They’re the defending champions, the ones who have set the marker.
“It’s about the Saracens team, not just the individuals, and that’s what we strive to be. Yes there are great individuals, but it’s about being a team.”
Alongside Sale, Bristol are expected to act as chief rivals to Premiership leaders Exeter who remain favourites to seize Saracens’ crown.
The Chiefs give Scotland lock Jonny Gray his debut for Leicester’s visit to Sandy Park, but otherwise it’s a familiar-looking team led by fly-half Joe Simmonds and containing Jack Nowell and Henry Slade.
Although in 11th place, the Tigers are spared the threat of relegation by Saracens’ punishment for repeated salary cap breaches and now have Eddie Jones’ former number two Steve Borthwick serving as head coach.
“Leicester have got an awful lot to play for. If you look at the table they will be thinking they have the opportunity of top four,” Exeter boss Rob Baxter said.
“I know it sounds odd because there’s a lot of teams between them and the top four, but three wins and they’re going to be getting close. There really isn’t any team that has nothing to play for.
“They’re a very proud club and also there’s a lot to prove on how can they start that upward arc both through the end of this season and the very quick turnaround until next season.”
Gloucester kick-off Saturday’s action with a west country derby against Worcester at Sixways and have marked Jonny May’s return to the club by naming him on the left wing.
Ireland flanker Sean O’Brien captains London Irish for their trip to Bath, who give a debut to former Saracens scrum-half Ben Spencer.