Leicester Tigers launch a new season’s Premiership Rugby Cup with a home game against Sale Sharks, the last winners of the trophy, at Mattioli Woods Welford Road on Saturday (3.00pm).
The Sharks lifted the trophy with a Final victory over Harlequins during the 2019/20 season and have held it ever since, with the tournament being shelved last season following the Covid pandemic.
Tigers’ last action in the Cup included wins over Exeter and Bath during that 2019/20 campaign.
Victory over Sale in Round 6 of the Gallagher Premiership last month ended a six-game losing run against this weekend’s opponents in the 101st meeting of the teams.
Brett Deacon is given responsibility for leading the coaching team in the competition and scrum-half Jack van Poortvliet will captain a squad with seven players making their debuts, including summer signings Dan Lancaster and Dan Richardson, and academy graduates Archie Vanes and Jacob Cusick who are all named among the replacements.
Heyes, who won his first England cap at the end of last season, said: “We’ve got lads who have not played much this year and this is an opportunity to play in a Leicester Tigers shirt at your home ground and also to put their hands up.
“It’s a great opportunity as individuals to kick on and there is nothing like playing for Tigers on your home ground.”
Sharks make 11 changes to his starting line-up after the 30-6 victory over Northampton saints in league action last weekend, with hooker Akker van der Merwe leading a team which also includes Simon McIntyre, JP du Preez, Jean-Luc du Preez, Luke James and Denny Solomona. The replacements include forwards Ewan Murphy and Jack Hill who are both students at Durham University who have returned to join the Premiership Cup squad.
The Premiership Cup involves all 13 clubs in the pool stages, split into three pools. All teams play four games, with the pool winners and best runner-up qualifying for the semi-finals next April.
The clubs ranked first and second will have home advantage in the semi-finals. The final will be played at the venue of the highest-ranked finalist.
Elsewhere in Round 1
Friday – Gloucester v Bath (7.45pm)
Saturday – Saracens v Harlequins (2.30), Exeter Chiefs v Bristol (3.00), Newcastle Falcons v Wasps (3.00), Northampton Saints v London Irish (3.30).