Friday, 6 December 2013

Montpellier Preview

Tigers return to European action this weekend as they welcome Montpellier for their first visit to the spiritual home of English rugby, Welford Road.

Flying Fijian Vereniki Goneva returns from injury and is recalled to the centre.  Adam Thompstone moves to wing and Blaine Scully is amongst the replacements.

Tigers sit just 2 points adrift from pool leaders Ulster after the first 2 rounds of action.  Tigers have been successful in securing bonus points but the Irish province bagged a vital away win when they beat Montpellier in the last round.  

Presuming Ulster avoid slipping on the banana skin fixtures against Treviso it puts massive pressure onto this Sunday's game as Tigers have no room for error.

Montpellier are new comers to France's top table.  Only founded in 1986, Montpellier won promotion to the Top 16 in 2003 after beating Tarbes in the play off final.  

In 2011 they snuck into the Top 14 play offs by 1 point after beating direct rivals Toulon on the final day of the season.  They then won the "barrage" or quarter final match away to Castres with a 71st minute penalty before beating Racing Metro in the semi finals, held in Marseille, with a 79th minute penalty.  The dream of the Bouclier de Brennus was shattered though as they lost 15-10 to Toulouse in the Final after 3 late penalties.

In the last 2 seasons Montpellier have finished 5th losing away to Castres in the quarter finals both times.  

At hooker Tom Youngs will make his 40th start for the First XV whilst Adam Thompstone makes his 30th start for the club.  

The other change to Tigers starting XV sees Jordan Crane wear 8 and Waldrom drop to the bench.  The two have rotated this season so I wouldn't rule out Waldrom at 8 for the return leg next week.

Broken hand bad boy Ryan Lamb comes onto the bench in place of Owen Williams whilst David Mele could be in line to face his fellow countryman as he takes Sam Harrison's spot on the pine.  Ed Slater returns as a replacement after a broken hand.

Montpellier name a star studded side.  Mamuka Gorgodze, Timoci Nagusa, Rene Ranger, Francois Trinh-duc, Johnny Beattie and Big Jim Hamilton would grace any side.  Hamilton, Coventry's favourite Scotsman, was last at Welford Road for Louis Deacon's testimonial in April.  He enjoyed 61 appearances for the Tigers before departing to Edinburgh. 

One to watch is scrum half Jonathan Pélissié.  Pelissie joined Montpellier in the summer from Grenoble where he had enjoyed 4 years and made an instant impact for his new side scoring 80 points in 11 games (7 Starts).  He made his France debut this autumn against Tonga.

15 Scott Hamilton
14 Adam Thompstone
13 Vereniki Goneva
12 Dan Bowden
11 Miles Benjamin
10 Toby Flood (c)
9 Ben Youngs
1 Marcos Ayerza
2 Tom Youngs
3 Dan Cole
4 Louis Deacon
5 Graham Kitchener
6 Jamie Gibson
7 Julian Salvi
8 Jordan Crane

16 Neil Briggs
17 Boris Stankovich
18 Fraser Balmain
19 Ed Slater
20 Thomas Waldrom
21 David Mele
22 Blaine Scully
23 Ryan Lamb

15 Anthony Floch
14 Timoci Nagusa
13 Rene Ranger
12 Thomas Combezou
11 Yoan Audrin
10 François Trinh-duc (c)
9 Jonathan Pélissié
1 Na'ama Leleimalefaga
2 Charles Geli
3 Maximiliano Bustos
4 Jim Hamilton
5 Mickaël De Marco
6 Kélian Galletier
7 Mamuka Gorgodze
8 Johnnie Beattie

16 Thomas Bianchin
17 Misha Nariashvili
18 Paea Faanunu
19 Thibaut Privat
20 Alex Tulou
21 Benoit Paillaugue
22 Wynand Olivier
23 Pierre Berard

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