MALTON & Norton RUFC will be keeping a close eye on the Aviva Premiership semi-final between Exeter Chiefs and Newcastle Falcons which will feature two former players.

Chiefs prop and Welsh international Tomas Francis and Falcons second-rower Will Witty both spent their formative years at the Gannock.

On Saturday (3.30pm), their club sides go head to head for the third time this season as they look to make another step closer to being crowned Premiership champions.

The players have not yet shared a pitch this campaign as Witty did not feature in Falcons’ 28-20 win in January, having been brought on three minutes Francis left the field in October’s 34-24 Chiefs win.

Francis signed with Championship side Doncaster Knights in 2012 as a 19-year-old and two years later stepped up to the top tier of English rugby union with Chiefs.

He made his international in a warm-up friendly against Ireland in 2015 and was subsequently named in Warren Gatland's World Cup squad.

Now in his fourth season with Chiefs, the 25-year-old tight-head has made a total of 77 appearances and has proved a valuable team member for both club and country, playing 688 minutes for Exeter this term and featuring prominently in the RBS Six Nations for Wales.

The 23-year-old Witty played for Malt’s Colts side before going to study at Newcastle University where he progressed through Falcons’ academy.

He made his first-team debut for Falcons in the European Rugby Challenge Cup game against Bucharest Wolves in 2014 and notched his first senior try will less than two minutes played.

Club spokesman Bill Laidler jokingly lamented Francis' choice of international side - being eligible to play for Wales through his grandmother - and said of the players’ rise through the ranks: “It’s very good for the club. It’s a feather in the cap for those who helped them along.

“We’re still in touch – in fact, Will came to the game at Percy Park and we speak to Tommy a lot.

“They know each other well as they’re both from local farming families, but I don’t think they played in the same side for us together as Tommy is a few years ahead of Witty.”

With an eye to the future and whether there are any other future stars in the Malt ranks, Laidler kept his cards close to his chest, saying: “We always hope so, but you never know until they get to senior rugby.”