Friday, 8 February 2013

Stars return for Welsh

Tigers return to Premiership action a month after their get out of jail win away to Worcester.  Tigers make 13 changes from the side humiliated  in Llanelli last weekend as only Mat Tait and Logovi'i Mulipola retain their places.

The official web site is report this to be Matt Smith's 100 start for the club, but from their own records he achieved that feat against Toulouse.  They are also including his starts against Jersey, Ulster and Nottingham but not any other "pre-season" game form previous years.  So by my reckoning its either his 98th start or well over with 100th.  

Whatever the numbers it seems certain that he has achieved or is about to achieve the feat of being the first son of a Tigers player who started 100+ games to also start 100+ games.  His father of course being club legend Ian "Dosser" Smith, who as well as playing 331 games over 14 years was also the coach when they won the Cup in 1993 against Harlequins and the league in 1995.

This looks to be Tigers strongest side given the 8 players missing with the Six Nations; Tom Croft will be hoping for a longer appearance than the 10 minutes he managed against Wasps as his comeback continues.  Along with Jordan Crane and Julian Salvi he forms possibily Tigers most balanced back row since the title winning side of 2010 where Moody teamed up with Crane and Croft to such great affect.

Controversially George Ford is restored to the starting line up despite deserting the club in the summer in pursuit of "regular game time" (He's making his 10th appearance of the season and 34th in total for the club0 and despite his shocking performance last weekend against Scotland 'A'.  His saving grace was probably Dan Bowden's poor performance in Llanelli.

Tomorrow's referee will be Tim Wigglesworth, his last game at Welford Road was December's battle against Bath where he showed 3 red and 2 yellow cards.  His red card for Brett Deacon is only card he's ever shown to a Tigers player.  This will also be his second London Welsh game of the season after officiating their bonus point defeat at home to Wasps on the 29th of December.

15 Mathew Tait
14 Niall Morris
13 Matt Smith
12 Anthony Allen
11 Adam Thompstone
10 George Ford
9 Sam Harrison
1 Marcos Ayerza
2 Rob Hawkins
3 Logovi'i Mulipola
4 Louis Deacon (c)
5 Graham Kitchener
6 Tom Croft
7 Julian Salvi
8 Jordan Crane

16 George Chuter
17 Boris Stankovich
18 Fraser Balmain
19 Ed Slater
20 Brett Deacon
21 Micky Young
22 Dan Bowden
23 Geordan Murphy

London Welsh are also hit by international call ups as they are missing Eastern European power houses Paulica Ion and Kirill Kulemin to Romania and Russia respectively, the side actually play each other in Bucharest this weekend.  They also give Gonzalo Tiesi his premiership debut for his third club after previous spells at London Irish and Harlequins.  They also tantalisingly name Gavin Henson on the bench, so far his season has been disrupted by a back injury but when fit he almost inspired the Welsh to a win over Saracens.

Tomorrow will also be a chance to welcome back Adam Balding to the club.  Balding played 86 times for the club and won 4 League Titles in his 6 year spell at the club.

London Welsh: 
15 Tom Arscott
14 Phil MacKenzie
13 Gonzalo Tiesi
12 Sonny Parker
11. Nick Scott
10 Gordon Ross
9 Tyson Keats
1 Franck Montanella
2 Neil Briggs
3 Greg Bateman
4 Jonathan Mills (c)
5 Matt Corker
6 Adam Balding
7 Michael Hill
8 Ed Jackson. Replacements: 
16 Dan George
17 Tom Bristow
18 James Tideswell
19 Martin Purdy
20 Ed Williamson
21 Seb Jewell
22 Gavin Henson
23 Rob Lewis

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