Friday, 21 February 2014

Flood Washed Away

Leicester have reacted to a disappointing win against Gloucester by making drastic changes.  Toby Flood pays the biggest price for an off day with the boot, and an on field spat, by losing the captaincy and dropping to the bench to be replaced by Owen Williams.

The metaphorical arm band instead goes to Ed Slater.  Slater is Leicester born but raised in Milton Keynes; he was picked up by Leicester's scouting system playing in Australia on a working gap year.  After a trial period and a short spell at Nottingham Slater returned to Tigers during the second row injury crisis of 2010.  He made his debut from the bench against Northampton on the opening day of the 2010-11 season and has gone on to make 85 appearances for the First XV.

Flood is not the only one to carry the can.  Matt Smith drops to the bench to be replaced by Blaine Scully.  Goneva switches from wing to centre to accommodate the Californian flyer.  In the pack international duty deprives us of Tom Youngs whilst Graham Kitchener misses out after limping off last week injured.  Hawkins and Deacon start in their place.

The decision to drop Flood is undoubtedly the most controversial.  Since his decision to become the first man to shun the Tigers captaincy the club has won only 4 out of 9 matches; before the announcement we were on a 6 game undefeated run.  

But it is still a big call, the season is not yet over and his partnership with Ben Youngs has remarkable statistics.  In 45 Premiership games the paid have only ever lost 4 times.  They have only tasted defeat once since the 2011 Premiership Final; a single point loss away to Bath, where we had a try incorrectly ruled out that would have won the game.  These guys know each other and know how to win.  Throwing away that partnership is a big risk.

London Irish name 5 former Tigers in their 23; George Skivington captains against his old side and Ian Humphreys wears 10.  Former Academy players Alex Lewington, Matt Parr and Jimmy Stevens are also involved.  

Tigers will beware Australian full back James O'Conner.  The sprightly full back is a class act and a sad reminder of what the pre-dumbed down salary capped Premiership looked like.  Tigers will have to guard him closely as he is a true world class talent.  Eammon Sheridan has been linked with a move to Munster and the gargantuan centre nullified Tigers at Welford Road earlier in the year.  

The strength of their wings is best emphasied by Topsy Ojo making do with a place on the bench.  Ojo has been one of the best wingers in the league for nigh on a decade and deserved more than his 2 England caps.  Marland Yarde returns from a hip injury, ironically suffered against the Tigers, on the bench. 

Sunday's referee is London based Irishman J.P. Doyle.   

15 Mathew Tait
14 Blaine Scully
13 Vereniki Goneva
12 Anthony Allen
11 Adam Thompstone
10 Owen Williams
9 Ben Youngs
1 Marcos Ayerza
2 Rob Hawkins
3 Logovi'i Mulipola
4 Ed Slater (c)
5 Louis Deacon
6 Jamie Gibson
7 Julian Salvi
8 Jordan Crane

16 Neil Briggs
17 Boris Stankovich
18 Fraser Balmain
19 Steve Mafi
20 Thomas Waldrom
21 David Mele
22 Matt Smith
23 Toby Flood

London Irish: 
15 James O'Connor
14 Alex Lewington
13 Eamonn Sheridan
12 Shane Geraghty
11 Andrew Fenby
10 Ian Humphreys
9 Darren Allinson
1 Matt Parr
2 David Paice
3 Jamie Hagan
4. George Skivington (c)
5 Nic Rouse
6 Kieran Low
7 Blair Cowan
8 Ofisa Treviranus Replacements: 
16 Jimmy Stevens
17 John Yapp
18 Leo Halavatau
19 Jebb Sinclair
20 Gerard Ellis
21 Topsy Ojo
22 Marland Yarde
23 Sean Kennedy

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