Friday, 24 January 2014

Champion v Champion in Cup Battle

After the intensity and disappointment of last week's match  Tigers take a step down this weekend as they travel to the Stoop to face Harlequins.  Last year Harlequins won the LV Cup with Tigers taking the Premiership, the year before it was vice versa with Harlequins winning a first Premiership and Tigers taking the Cup.

Since league rugby began in 1987 Tigers have taken on Quins 28 times in competitive games at the Stoop, winning 20, losing 8 and drawing 1.  We have a mirror image at home with 20 wins and 9 losses.  The recent form has not been so good as Quins have 4 of the last 5 meetings.  The only Tigers win?  Last season's Premiership semi final.

Tigers make 14 changes from the defeat to Ulster as they seek to rest the wounded, give chances to the fringe players and judiciously blood a small amount of youth.  Frenchman David Mele cements his burgeoning reputation at the club by having the honour of the captaincy. 

Tom Bristow a summer signing from London Welsh makes his first start for the club as he is joined by Rob Hawkins, a first start this season, and Fraser Balmain in the front row.  Harry Thacker, so impressive in the first tranche of games, misses out with an injured ankle.  19 year old Italian Tiziano Pasquali backs up tighthead with experienced duo George Chuter and Boris Stankovich cover the other two.

Steve Mafi returns to the starting line up at the relatively unfamiliar position of lock.  With Joe Cain and Tom Price out with injuries he is joined by Sebastian De Chaves in the First XV and Harry Wells on the bench.  

The back row sees impressive Argentinean flanker Pablo Matera make his second start for the club.  Matera has struggled for fluency since his arrival being unavailable for 7 of the 13 games since his October arrival due to international commitments and registration issues in Europe.  From now on he is available for every game, injuries willing, so hopefully will use the next two weeks to make an unanswerable case for inclusion in the Premiership games next month.

Thomas Waldrom, in his first appearance since announcing his summer departure to Exeter, starts at 8 with Michael Noone on the blindside.  On the bench there is a potential debut for openside flanker Will Owen, an England U-18 international.

Joining captain Mele at half back is Ryan Lamb.  The "mercurial" fly half has fallen down the pecking order in recent times and I am surprised to see him here in place of Owen Williams.  The backs cannot be said to be blooding any youth as Scott Hamilton, Matt Smith, Adam Thompstone, Terrence Hepetema join Blaine Scully.  

Scully was looking in great nick before missing November with the USA and could well force his way back into the First XV after the news that Miles Benjamin is back on the long term missing list.

Young backs Scott Steele, Owen Williams and Henry Purdy cover from the bench.

Harlequins are winless in this season's LV Cup and are out to change that after naming a very strong side.  Big money summer signings Paul Sackey and Nick Kennedy both start along dual code international Maurice Fa'asalavu and international tighthead and filmographer Paul Doran-Jones.  Lions winger Ugo Monye is on the bench should the fire power in the first line run short.

Saturday's referee will be Gwyn Morris from Cardiff.  Morris was due to referee Tigers last LV Cup game, away to Worcester, but was replaced at the last minute with Neil Hennessy.  Morris's claim to fame is that he was Sam Warburton and Gareth Bale's P.E. teacher whilst they attended school in Cardiff.

Looking at the sides I would expect Tigers to play a wide game, with good tempo.  There is precious little biff in the pack so the mobile game must be to the fore.  It wouldn't surprise me if it comes down to the goal kicking of Lamb and Botica.

15 Scott Hamilton
14 Blaine Scully
13 Matt Smith
12 Terrence Hepetema
11 Adam Thompstone
10 Ryan Lamb
9 David Mele (c)
1 Tom Bristow
2 Rob Hawkins
3 Fraser Balmain
4 Steve Mafi
5 Sebastian De Chaves
6 Michael Noone
7 Pablo Matera
8 Thomas Waldrom

16 George Chuter
17 Boris Stankovich
18 Tiziano Pasquali
19 Harry Wells
20 Will Owen
21 Scott Steele
22 Owen Williams
23 Henry Purdy

15. Ollie Lindsay-Hague
14. Paul Sackey
13. Harry Sloan
12. Jordan Turner-Hall
11. Tom Williams
10. Ben Botica
9. Karl Dickson (C)

1. Mark Lambert
2. Joe Gray
3. Paul Doran Jones
4. George Merrick
5. Nick Kennedy
6. Joe Trayfoot
7. Maurie Fa'asavalu
8. Tom Guest

16. Nic Mayhew
17. Darryl Marfo
18. Kyle Sinckler
19. Kieran Treadwell
20. James Chisholm
21. Sam Stuart
22. Louis Grimoldby
23. Ugo Monye

Quins Kit
Tigers Kit

Referee: Gwyn Morris (Wales)
Touch Judges: Roy Maybank (England), Nigel Carrick (England)

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