Friday, 10 January 2014

Mafi & Allen return as Tigers head for pivotal European Fixture

Tigers travel to Italy looking to secure a victory and set up a do or die clash with Irish giants Ulster at Welford Road next week.

Richard Cockerill is forced into two changes in his Starting XV as injury forces Tom Youngs and Ed Slater out.  There has been no word on Youngs's injury but we know that Ed Slater is missing after suffering a concussion last week.

Neil Briggs starts his first Heineken up game for 4 years, his last was in January 2010 when his Sale side traveled to Cardiff.  Replacing Slater in the engine room is South African lock Sebastian De Chaves.

The headline returns are amongst the replacements.  Steve Mafi is back after missing 3 months on compassionate leave following complications with the birth of his child in Australia.  Also returning is Anthony Allen.  Allen has missed 3 months following a nasty leg injury suffered against Northampton in October.  Both add a sparkle of quality and experience to the bench and are sure to feature if needed.

In the front row Marcos Ayerza makes 150th start for the club.  Ayerza made his debut in the 27 all draw at home to Gloucester on 16th September 2006; in the current squad only Louis Deacon and George Chuter have played more games for the club.

Tigers know that Treviso will put up a strong challenge at home.  The last two encounters in Treviso have gone down to the wire: in 2012 it required a last minute penalty try for Tigers to bag the 4 points and back in 2010 it took an Alesana Tuilagi try from the half way line with only 4 minutes to spare for Tigers to take home all 5 points.  

Last season Treviso finished 7th in the RaboDirect Pro12; this season how ever their form has been worse as they have only won 3 games so far, with two of those being Connacht and Zebre at home.

In the Italian side the Tongan-Japanese Christian Loamanu switches from centre to flanker.  Loamanu has previously played number 8 for the Italians in a bonus point win against Munster last season.  In the back row he is joined by Robert Barbieri, a Canadian, and Paul Derbyshire, despite the name born and bred in Italy to an Italian mother.

Treviso posses a very strong front row.  Tighthead Lorenzo Cittadini is an incredibly strong scrummager and is pushing Castro very hard for his Italian test jersey.  Hooker Leonardo Ghiraldini is an experienced campaigner, regularly linked to top English and French sides he has stayed loyal to Treviso. 

The referee is Romain Poite, from Castres in France.  Poite refereed the 60-16 win for Tigers against Treviso in 2008 but otherwise we have struggled with him away from home losing to Ulster twice as well as Saracens back in 2010.

Other results to look for are victories for Clermont against Harlequins; Toulon against Cardiff; Munster against Gloucester and Ospreys against Northampton.  A Tigers victory combined with wins for those European giants and both Ulster and ourselves will be sure of at least a best runners up spot in the quarter finals.

Leicester Tigers
15 Mathew Tait
14 Niall Morris
13 Vereniki Goneva
12 Toby Flood (c)
11 Miles Benjamin
10 Owen Williams
9 Ben Youngs
1 Marcos Ayerza
2 Neil Briggs
3 Dan Cole
4 Louis Deacon
5 Sebastian De Chaves
6 Jamie Gibson
7 Julian Salvi
8 Thomas Waldrom

16 Rob Hawkins
17 Boris Stankovich
18 Fraser Balmain
19 Steve Mafi
20 Jordan Crane
21 David Mélé
22 Anthony Allen
23 Matt Smith

Benetton Treviso: 
15 Brendan Williams
14 Angelo Esposito
13 Michele Campagnaro
12 Andrea Pratichetti
11 Luke McLean
10 Mat Berquist
9 Edoardo Gori
1 Michele Rizzo
2 Leonardo Ghiraldini
3 Lorenzo Cittadini
4 Antonio Pavanello (c)
5 Valerio Bernabo
6 Christian Loamanu
7 Paul Derbyshire
8 Robert Barbieri Replacements: 
16 Franco Sbaraglini
17 Alberto de Marchi
18 Ignacio Fernandez Rouyet
19 Marco Fuser
20 Marco Filippucci
21 Francesco Minto
22 Fabio Semenzato
23 James Ambrosini

Referee: Romain Poite
Touch Judges: Christophe Berdos & Tual Trainini

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