Richard Cockerill returns from his RFU imposed match day exile and will be seeking to inspire his side to their first win at Adams Park since 2007. Also returning to the Tigers fold is loosehead prop Marcos Ayerza who will make a fleeting 2 week return home before rejoining the Argentinean test squad for the Autumn internationals.
Ayerza is one of 7 changes from the side that gained the bonus point at home to Treviso by the skin of its teeth. Most of those are forced rest thanks to the EPS agreement.
Owen Williams will make his full Tigers debut after Toby Flood was retained in the England squad by Stuart Lancaster. Williams is a 21 year old fly half originally from Ystradgynlais near Neath in the Valleys. He is no novice despite his age; he has started a Rabo Pro12 semi final, away to Ulster, and a Welsh Premiership Final away to Pontypridd. Williams played 13 games for the Scarlets and a further 48 for Llanelli in the Principality Premiership.
In the centres injury has now robbed Cockerill of 4 of his 5 first choice options. Manu Tuilagi (chest), Anthony Allen (thigh), Matt Smith (Hand) and Vereniki Goneva (Calf) are all on the treatment table. This means Dan Bowden and Terrence Hepetema will start in the midfield.
Niall Morris has spent the week training with the Ireland squad but will continue at 15 in the absence of Mat Tait. The wings tasked with keeping Christian Wade locked up are two of last week’s try scoring heroes Adam Thompstone and Eagles international Blaine Scully.
In the front row Ayerza starts at loosehead with Neil Briggs replacing the rested Tom Youngs, Logovi’i Mulipola moves from 1 to 3. Geoff Parling and Graham Kitchener both miss out as Louis Deacon captains the side from the middle row. Ed Slater takes Kitchener’s jumper as Jamie Gibson starts in his place at blindside.
Impressive Argentinean flanker Pablo Matera is one of 6 forwards on the bench and will make his Tigers debut if required. Also bench warming as Boris Stankovich, George Chuter, Fraser Balmain, Sebastian De Chaves, Jordan Crane, Miles Benjamin and Sam Harrison.
Tigers travel to Adams Park with a poor recent record at the ground. Tigers have lost on each of their past 5 visits with the most recent victory coming back in 2007. Last season’s game was scarred by Sean Davey’s “refereeing” but the year before, played during the World Cup, was an all time classic as 29 points from Billy Twelvetrees were bettered by a Christian Wade hat trick in a 35-29 defeat.
Sunday’s referee will be Andrew Small, the man who held the whistle in that classic match. The New Zealander has refereed the Tigers 18 times, with Leicester winning 12 and losing 6. The most recent of which saw Richard Cockerill condemn Small as “uneducated” on scrums after his woeful handling of last December’s Leicester-Gloucester match.
This will also be the first match day of the season that Cockerill will be allowed to have contact with the team. The unprecedented 7 game ban for swearing whilst talking to a 4th offical has taken its toll on the great man and his team but now he is back to provide his inimitable brand of motivation and tactical advice.
Cockerill has vowed to not change his approach despite the persecution he has suffered from officialdom. Haters going to hate.
15 Niall Morris
14 Blaine Scully
13 Terrence Hepetema
12 Dan Bowden
11 Adam Thompstone
10 Owen Williams
9 David Mélé
1 Marcos Ayerza
2 Neil Briggs
3 Logovi'i Mulipola
4 Louis Deacon (c)
5 Ed Slater
6 Jamie Gibson
7 Julian Salvi
8 Thomas Waldrom
16 George Chuter
17 Boris Stankovich
18 Fraser Balmain
19 Sebastian de Chaves
20 Jordan Crane
21 Pablo Matera
22 Miles Benjamin
23 Sam Harrison
Referee: Andrew Small
TV: BT Sports 1HD, Sunday 1:00pm (KO 2:00pm). This game will be free to view on all platforms and remember the clocks go back on Saturday night, so don’t be late!