Friday, 19 September 2014

Croft set to make season's debut

Tigers travel to Bath aiming to end one of our longest running hoodoos.  Tigers have won only one Premiership match at the Rec since 2006, a 37-6 romp in 2011 that saw Tony Allen race in from his own half and Tom Croft bag a brace.  Of course Tigers did famously overcome Bath in a tight Anglo-Welsh semi final in 2012; Tigers were steered by a fantastic George Ford that day who slotted 4 penalties and controlled territory remarkably.

Tomorrow Ford will be driving the Bath team instead, whilst Tigers general will be Bath born and raised Freddie Burns.  Professional rugby has led to some unimaginable things, a Bath boy leading the Tigers chief amongst them!

Tigers have announced 3 changes to the starting line up for last week's west country win; in the back row Jordan Crane comes in for his 150th First XV start with Tom Croft joining him at 6 for his first start of the season, in the front row Leonardo Ghiraldini starts at hooker.

The unchanged backline sees Mat Tait, Niall Morris and Vereniki Goneva continue in the back three; with Tuilagi and Allen combining in the centres for a 45th time.  At half back Ben Youngs continues to captain the side and he plays alongside Burns.

Julian Salvi joins Crane and Croft in the back row whilst Parling and Kitchener form the lock partnership.  Mulipola continues at loosehead with young Fraser Balmain at tighthead.

Bath make on change from the side that ravaged London Welsh as Matt Banahan replaces the injured Anthony Watson.  Banahan saw red for poleaxing Anthony Allen in Tigers last victory in the fixture.  The Bath midfield features the trickery of Kyle Eastmond and Jonathan Joseph in the centres, the pair are creative and quick, they slashed Tigers defence apart in the Welford Road game last season.

At half back is the aforementioned Ford joined by Chris Cook.  People talk about Tigers reluctance to blood youth but the 23 year old Cook only made his first Premiership start last week.

Bath's pack is fearsome.  Davy Wilson is a powerhouse at tighthead and he is joined by internationals Rob Webber and Paul James.  James will have to watch his scrummaging angle as he has gained a reputation for boring in during his time in the Premiership.

The back row is denied Francois Louw by injury sustained on international duty, a feeling Tigers known all about, but still possess strength in Liverpudlian Car Fearns and cunning in local lad Guy mercer.  Leroy Houston is all elbows and knees when carrying, a bit like Thomas Waldrom his strength is his carrying rather than breakdown work.

The referee will be Wayne Barnes.  Barnes has taken charge of 3 previous encounters between Tigers and Bath, last season's LV Cup defeat means Tigers have lost 2 won 1 of the encounters. 

15 Mat Tait
14 Niall Morris
13 Manu Tuilagi
12 Anthony Allen
11 Vereniki Goneva
10 Freddie Burns
9 Ben Youngs (c)
1 Logovi'i Mulipola
2 Leonardo Ghiraldini
3 Fraser Balmain
4 Graham Kitchener
5 Geoff Parling
6 Tom Croft
7 Julian Salvi
8 Jordan Crane
16 Tom Youngs
17 Riccardo Brugnara
18 Tiziano Pasquali
19 Sebastian De Chaves
20 Robert Barbieri
21 David Mele
22 Owen Williams
23 Matt Smith

15 Luke Arscott
14 Semesa Rokoduguni
13 Jonathan Joseph
12 Kyle Eastmond
11 Matt Banahan
10 George Ford
9 Chris Cook
1 Paul James
2 Rob Webber
3 David Wilson
4 Stuart Hooper (c)
5 Dave Attwood
6 Carl Fearns
7 Guy Mercer
8 Leroy Houston Replacements: 
16 Tom Dunn
17 Nick Auterac
18 Henry Thomas
19 Dominic Day
20 Alafoti Fa'osiliva
21 Peter Stringer
22 Ollie Devoto
23 Olly Woodburn

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