Preview: Bristol v Worcester Warriors

Date published: December 23 2016

Fly-half Tusi Pisi makes his long-awaited return from injury when Bristol host Worcester Warriors in their Premiership clash on Boxing Day.

The Samoan international comes into the backline as the bottom two in the Premiership go head to head at Ashton Gate.

Bristol head coach Mark Tainton makes four changes to the side that secured an impressive victory over Pau last weekend.

Dan Tuohy is set for his competitive debut in the pack, while Olly Robinson is included and will skipper the side with Jordan Crane (knee) unavailable.

Nick Fenton-Wells also comes into the back row in the absence of the injured Jonathan Fisher (head).

“We’re eagerly anticipating Boxing Day and the game against Worcester. We’ve prepared well and the guys are looking forward to playing in front of what promises to be a fantastic atmosphere,” said Tainton.

“My message to the players today is to go out there and not take a backwards step; play with pride and the same freedom that has seen us make significant strides in our game. The way we have performed over the past two weeks in the European Challenge Cup has been very encouraging, but the impetus is now on the players to translate those performances into the league.”

Meanwhile, Ben Te’o, Dean Hammond, Michael Dowsett and Christian Scotland-Williamson are all named in the Warriors starting line-up for this encounter.

Dewald Potgieter will lead Warriors for just the second time as they look to build the gap between themselves and their opponents at the foot of the table.

Warriors head coach Carl Hogg makes four changes to the side which took on Wasps in the last round of Premiership action, with England international Te’o returning for his first appearance since scoring against Harlequins in October.

Scrum-half Dowsett is given the nod for his first Premiership start, having scored against Bristol on his club debut in the Anglo-Welsh Cup in November, while winger Hammond is recalled to the wing.

Locks Scotland-Williamson and Will Spencer, who have impressed in the recent block of European Challenge Cup fixtures, are both named in the squad with Scotland-Williamson set for his first ever Premiership start.

Spencer is among the replacements and could make his first Premiership appearance for the Club.

Academy scrum-half George de Cothi could also make his Premiership bow from the bench while Ryan Mills is also recalled to the matchday 23.

Form: Bristol beat Top 14 opponents Pau home and away in the Challenge Cup but are still without a victory in Premiership Rugby this season. Bristol have not won at Ashton Gate in Premiership Rugby since beating Leicester there in April 2007. Worcester Warriors only victory in their last six first team matches was 33-20 over Newport Gwent Dragons in Round 3 of the Challenge Cup. The Warriors have not won away from home in any competition since a trip to Harlequins in Premiership Rugby in March. The two clubs have already met this season with Warriors having the edge 31-25 at Sixways in the Anglo-Welsh cup in early November. They have not clashed in Premiership Rugby since Bristol’s 37-18 victory at Memorial Stadium in March 2009. Worcester have twice before visited Ashton Gate, in the RFU Championship in season 2014/15, losing 19-23 in the opening round but winning the first leg of the final 29-28.

The teams:

Bristol: 15 Jason Woodward, 14 Jack Wallace, 13 Will Hurrell, 12 Tusi Pisi, 11 Tom Varndell, 10 Billy Searle, 9 Will Cliff, 8 Mitch Eadie, 7 Olly Robinson (c), 6 Nick Fenton-Wells, 5 Ben Glynn, 4 Dan Tuohy, 3 Gaston Cortes, 2 Rob Hawkins, 1 Ryan Bevington
Replacements: 16 Max Crumpton, 17 Kyle Traynor, 18 Jamal Ford-Robinson, 19 James Phillips, 20 Mark Sorenson, 21 Rhodri Williams, 22 Adrian Jarvis, 23 Thretton Palamo

Worcester: 15 Chris Pennell, 14 Dean Hammond, 13 Ben Te’o, 12 Jackson Willison, 11 Cooper Vuna, 10 Jamie Shillcock, 9 Michael Dowsett, 8 Alafoti Faosiliva, 7 Sam Lewis, 6 Dewald Potgieter (c), 5 Darren Barry, 4 Christian Scotland-Williamson, 3 Nick Schonert, 2 Jaba Bregvadze, 1 Val Rapava Ruskin
Replacements: 16 Jack Singleton, 17 Na’ama Leleimalefaga, 18 James Johnston, 19 Will Spencer, 20 Phil Dowson, 21 George de Cothi, 22 Ryan Mills, 23 Josh Adams

Date: Monday, December 26
Venue: Ashton Gate
Kick-off: 15:00 GMT
Referee: Wayne Barnes
Assistant Referees: Jack Makepeace, Paul Dix
TMO: David Grashoff