Friday, 14 February 2014

Tigers name team for Cherry 'n' White test

Tigers welcome old adversaries Gloucester to Welford Road this Sunday as both sides look to put a disappointing start to the season behind them Gloucester sit in 9th place and need to win almost all of their remaining games if they are to feature in any European competition next season.  Tigers sit in 5th place and need to seriously up their game if they want to retain the Premiership title they won so brilliantly back in May.

14 points behind Saracens with 9 to play a home semi final seems a long way off, even winning all our remaining games may not be enough.

Last week Tigers snuck the smallest of wins away to Worcester and Richard Cockerill makes 4 changes to that side.  England benchman Tom Youngs returns at hooker; Graham Kitchener has recovered from an ankle knock against Ulster to feature at lock; Jordan Crane swaps with Thomas Waldrom and Adam Thompstone takes Blaine Scully's place on the wing.

Youngs and Kitchener's returns are no brainers whilst Jordan Crane and Thomas Waldrom have rotated heavily this year.  But Thompstone's return I find surprising, or rather that Scully makes way.  Scully had another top game against Worcester providing the assist for Goneva's 2nd try but he misses out whilst Matt Smith, who failed to make a single pass all match, is retained.  

Smith is an admirable man, a good defender and hard worker but his offensive capabilities pails in comparison to Goneva, who is a dynamic ball carrier with the ability to unlock any defence.  Goneva is an experienced centre having spent most of his career pre-Tigers there and is a sound defender.  At the end of the day should an heir to Woodward and Dodge really be able to get away with a whole match without passing?

The other surprise is that no place has been found for Steve Mafi in the matchday 23.  The fan favourite has an undeniable quality and steps up well to the big occasion, surely he should be allowed to play himself into form in the same way that paid such dividends for Mat Tait last season?

Tigers posses a powerful tight five which is practically at full strength; Gloucester's in contrast has not fared well this year and will need to step up to avoid a repeat of last season's game when Tigers demolished a Gloucester scrum, Shaun Knight was sin binned in the first half after refusing to scrummage legally.

Gloucester have stiffened their pack since then by singing Tongan tighthead Sila Puafisi and the emergence of young lock Elliot Stooke, very much of the Jim Hamilton mould in the second row.

The back row is strong with ex-Nottingham man Sione Kalamafone particularly impressive.  Another man with midlands pedigree is Rob Cook, he developed his unique kicking style during a stint at Nuneaton, who joins Charlie Sharples, Henry Trinder, Mike Tindall and Martyn Thomas in an exciting back line.

Sunday's referee will be Dean Richards.  Not that one.  This one is originally from Henley and it will be his 8th time refereeing the Tigers; his 7 games so far has yielded 6 wins since a debut defeat away to Bristol in 2005.  

15 Mat Tait
14 Vereniki Goneva
13 Matt Smith
12 Anthony Allen
11 Adam Thompstone
10 Toby Flood (c)
9 Ben Youngs
1 Marcos Ayerza
2 Tom Youngs
3 Logovi'i Mulipola
4 Ed Slater
5 Graham Kitchener
6 Jamie Gibson
7 Julian Salvi
8 Jordan Crane

16 Rob Hawkins
17 Boris Stankovich
18 Fraser Balmain
19 Louis Deacon
20 Thomas Waldrom
21 David Mele
22 Owen Williams
23 Blaine Scully

15 Rob Cook
14 Charlie Sharples
13 Henry Trinder
12 Mike Tindall (c)
11 Martyn Thomas
10 Ryan Mills
9 Dan Robson
1 Nick Wood
2 Darren Dawidiuk
3 Sila Puafisi
4 Elliott Stooke
5 Will James
6 Sione Kalamafoni
7 Matt Kvesic
8 Ben Morgan
16 Huia Edmonds
17 Yann Thomas
18 Rupert Harden
19 James Hudson
20 Matt Cox
21 Jimmy Cowan
22 Freddie Burns
23 Shane Monahan

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