Friday, 26 September 2014

Irish side named as Injury curse stirkes again

Tigers' injury curse has struck again with Logo Mulipola, Geoff Parling, Tom Youngs and Niall Morris all falling victim.  Tom Youngs is out until Christmas with a shoulder injury, Niall Morris will miss 6 weeks with a knee injury whilst Geoff Parling is out for an indeterminate amount of time following repeated concussions.  Mulipola was seen limping off after 50 minutes last week but his injury and its extent have been kept under wraps by the club.

But there is some positive news at last.

After serving an 8 week stand down period from August 1st to allow for an injury dispensation signing Miles Benjamin is available again.  The electric winger scored 5 times in 10 outings last season to give him the second best strike rate in the current squad behind only Vereniki Goneva.

Also returning is Californian winger Blaine Scully after an unknown injury ruled him out for the trips to Exeter and Bath.

The two wingers availability sees Goneva shift into the centres to cover for the withdrawn Manu Tuilagi.  Rumours surfaced last Friday that Tuilagi would not be fit to face Bath but now it seems the "niggle" has dragged on for a second week at least.  Goneva's last outings in the centre was the trip to the Madejski in February last year.

The injury crisis has left the pack decimated.  Missing are Marcos Ayerza, Michele Rizzo, Tom Youngs, Dan Cole, Logo Mulipola, Louis Deacon, Geoff Parling, Brad Thorn, Ed Slater, Tom Croft and Pablo Matera.  That's not just a decent pack but a world class bench spare as well.

That leaves Tigers relying on young props Tom Bristow and Fraser Balmain.  Bristow starts his first Premiership game for the club, though he did start 6 games for London Welsh in their previous Premiership season; Balmain is slightly more experienced with 8 Premiership starts including last season's home win against London Irish.

Parling's concussion problems give young South African Sebastian De Chaves another chance in the second row alongside Graham Kitchener.  De Chaves was impressive against Newcastle and deserved a start ahead of Parling regardless.  

The back row is still strong with Crane and Salvi first choice players.  Jamie Gibson provides decent cover as Croft returns from his major knee injury.

The injury crisis severely hampers Richard Cockerill's choice of bench players forcing him into a 6-2 forwards to backs split.  As well as the compulsory whole replacement front row Tigers have also named a lock, Harry Wells, and two number 8s, former rugby league man Laurence Pearce and Canadian-Italian Bob Barbieri.  The only backs on the bench are local duo Matt Smith and Sam Harrison.  

This means that both games at Welford Road this season have seen unusual bench selections with the Newcastle game seeing a 4-4 split between forwards and backs.

London Irish have a terrible record at Welford Road avoiding defeat just twice in 22 years, including the thrilling 24 all draw 3 years ago when Dan Bowden inspired Irish to two late tries to seal the draw.

The Exiles have won one lost two so far this season; an atrocious day with the boot from Juan Pablo Socino, who missed 6 of 7 kicks, helped them to overcome Newcastle at Kingston Park; Harlequins quick first half proved too much at the London Double header and Saracens snatched victory from the jaws of defeat with a last play driving maul try from Billy Vunipola.

Irish make one change from that side as anatomically named Ofisa Treviranus drops out to be replaced by Scots international Kieran Low.  That see former Newcastle and Llanelli wing Andy Fenby retain the full backs jersey, with 2011 Premiership Final try scorer James Short on one wing and former Tigers and Nottingham wing Alex Lewington on the other.  

The centres see a classic bludgeon and rapier combo as the mercurial Shane Geraghty combines with former Macclesfield and Rotherham man Fergus Mulchrone.  Mulchrone is a ball of muscle with good instincts hones in the lower leagues.

Another ex-Tiger is scrum half Scott Steele, a summer signing who found his path blocked at Leicester by Ben Youngs and Sam Harrison.  He partners Chris Noakes a New Zealander with experience of Super Rugby.

The Exiles pack is a star studded 7 international affair, accidental Lion Tom Court joins Australian-English test cap David Paice and Halani Aulika in an all international front row.  The only uncapped man in the pack is yet another former Tiger George Skivington an uncompromising experienced warrior.  His second row partner is Jebb Sinclair, the Canadian's red card cost his nation a win over Scotland this summer, even worse for the big man was that the decision was atrocious given for little more than a hand off.

The back row sees the aforementioned Low join fellow Scots cap Blair Cowan and former Gloucester captain Luke Narraway in a speedy breakaway trio.

Tigers squad is down to its bear bones and faces a side growing in confidence.  The record defeat to Bath has hurt the side and supporters but they need to bounce back to limit the damage.  With a packed Welford Road and vociferous home support to please Tigers will hope to do just that.

15 Mat Tait
14 Blaine Scully
13 Vereniki Goneva
12 Owen Williams
11 Miles Benjamin
10 Freddie Burns
9 Ben Youngs (c)
1 Tom Bristow
2 Leonardo Ghiraldini
3 Fraser Balmain
4 Sebastian De Chaves
5 Graham Kitchener
6 Jamie Gibson
7 Julian Salvi
8 Jordan Crane

16 Neil Briggs
17 Riccardo Brugnara
18 Tiziano Pasquali
19 Laurence Pearce
20 Robert Barbieri
21 Harry Wells
22 Sam Harrison
23 Matt Smith

London Irish: 
15 Andrew Fenby
14 Alex Lewington
13 Fergus Mulchrone
12 Shane Geraghty
11 James Short
10 Chris Noakes
9 Scott Steele
1 Tom Court
2 David Paice
3 Halani Aulika
4 George Skivington (c)
5 Jebb Sinclair
6 Kieran Low
7 Blair Cowan
8 Luke Narraway

16 Gerard Ellis
17 Matt Parr
18 Leo Halavatau
19 Dan Leo
20 Tom Guest
21 Tomás O'Leary
22 Eamonn Sheridan
23 Topsy Ojo

Referee: Greg Garner
Touch Judges: Simon McConnell & Paul Burton

TMO: David Sainsbury.

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