Thursday, 6 February 2014

Prem Action Returns: Tigers Team for Worcester Named

Leicester return to Premiership action this Friday as we travel to face relegation threatened Worcester at Sixways.

Worcester are winless in the Premiership this season as Dean Ryan's appointment has failed to live up to pre-season expectations.  Tigers go into this game on the back of a poor run of form that has seen us win only 2 out of the last 7 games, our worst run of form since the 2011 World Cup when were missing 11 players and only managed a single win in 8 games.

Richard Cockerill used the LV break to rotate and rest his squad so makes 11 changes to his starting XV.  Blaine Scully is rewarded for his try in last week's mauling by Bath with a spot on the wing whilst Matt Smith continues at centre and Rob Hawkins and Thomas Waldrom retain their places in the pack

Headline returnee is Logovi'i Mulipola after almost 3 months out after a 13cm tear in his calf.  Mulipola suffered the injury on international duty with Samoa much to Cockerill's chagrin.  He is joined by Hawkins and Argentinian international Marcos Ayerza in the front row.

England have deemed Ed Slater and Ben Youngs surplus to their requirements despite the disastrous start and finish to the France game last week.  Youngs forms a mid-field triumvirate with regular partner Toby Flood and inside centre Anthony Allen.  Slater partners Louis Deacon in the second row.

Other star players recalled are Mat Tait and Vereniki Goneva in the backs with Julian Salvi at openside.  Jamie Gibson retains his place at blindside ahead of Steve Mafi.  Mafi will be looking to make a characteristic big impact from the bench to regain his starting place.

The bench has a youthful feel as Harry Thacker, in line to make his Premiership debut, is joined by Fraser Balmain, Pablo Matera and Owen Williams.  Experience is provided by Stankovich and Scott Hamilton.

Worcester's side is strengthened by the return to fitness of Pumas hooker Agustin Creevy.  The pack features a physical back row as South African lock Mike Williams wears 6 alongside Bristolian Sam Betty at openside.  Betty was yellow carded for a high tackle in the reverse fixture this September.  They are joined by 67 cap Wales international Jonathan Thomas.

The bench provides further experienced depth as Leonardo Senatore provides 20 Argentina caps in the back row.  

The backline provides a Pacific Island flavour as Samoan David Lemi is joined by Fijians Josh Drauniniu and Ravai Fatiaki, with Josh Matavesi covering from the bench.  

Friday's referee will be New Zealand's Andrew Small.  Small has been refereeing in England for many years; it is 8 years since his first encounter with the Tigers, a 10 point loss to the Barbarians in March 2006.  That was the last First XV match played against the Barbarians as well as Pat Howard's final start for the club.  Since then Small has taken charge of the club on 28 occasions with Tigers winning 71.43% of those games (or 20/28 in boring whole number stats).  His last appointment was the disappointing defeat away to Wasps in October.

With the recent weather in the west country I shudder to think what state the pitch will be in, with a storm predicted to come near the end of the match if Tigers can't get out into a lead Worcester's forward power and psyched up home crowd may be enough to win an arm wrestle.  Tigers slim chances of a home semi final are resting on wins in all the upcoming games away to the bottom three. 

15 Mat Tait
14 Blaine Scully
13 Matt Smith
12 Anthony Allen
11 Vereniki Goneva
10 Toby Flood (c)
9 Ben Youngs
1 Marcos Ayerza
2 Rob Hawkins
3 Logovi'i Mulipola
4 Louis Deacon
5 Ed Slater
6 Jamie Gibson
7 Julian Salvi
8 Thomas Waldrom

16 Harry Thacker
17 Boris Stankovich
18 Fraser Balmain
19 Steve Mafi
20 Pablo Matera
21 David Mélé
22 Owen Williams
23 Scott Hamilton

15 Chris Pennell
14 Josh Drauniniu
13 Alex Grove
12 Ravai Fatiaki
11 David Lemi
10 Paul Warwick
9 Jonny Arr
1 Ofa Fainga'anuku
2 Agustin Creevy
3 John Andress
4 James Percival
5 Mariano Galarza
6 Mike Williams
7 Sam Betty
8 Jonathan Thomas (c)
16 Ed Shervington
17 George Porter
18 Rob O'Donnell
19 Dean Schofield
20 Leonardo Senatore
21 Paul Hodgson
22 Ignacio Mieres
23 Josh Matavesi

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