Preview: Gloucester v Leicester

Date published: October 3 2014

Seventh meets eighth in the Premiership on Saturday as Gloucester host Leicester in a critical game for both sides’ early season.

Seventh meets eighth in the Aviva Premiership table on Saturday as Gloucester host Leicester Tigers in a key game for both sides’ early season.

Both teams have suffered two defeats from their opening four matches, with Leicester heading into this fixture on the back of losing to London Irish.

Gloucester meanwhile enjoyed a much-needed win at London Welsh last Friday and in truth, this is the best time they could be facing the Tigers.

In team news, Nick Wood will make his first start of the campaign, while Greig Laidlaw and Tom Savage return to the Gloucester starting line-up.

Wood, who missed the club’s pre-season friendlies due to back spasms, will start at loosehead prop having successfully come through two A League games in recent weeks.

The other changes to the side that won 46-10 at London Welsh last Friday see Greig Laidlaw restored to the starting line-up at scrum-half and Tom Savage return from injury in the second-row.

Previewing the fixture with the local media this week, it was put to director of rugby David Humphreys that the Tigers, who have lost two on the bounce, are depleted due to injuries.

“Leicester have a few injury problems but I wouldn’t say they were depleted. When you look at their squad, and the number of internationals that they are still able to put out, it shows the depth they have,” he said.

“In some ways, it shows us the work we have to do in terms of bringing our players through to create a squad with the depth that they have.

“Leicester have been one of the most successful teams not just in England but also in Europe over the course of the last decade. We’re all looking forward to it, it’s going to be a huge challenge and will allow us to see how far we’ve progressed since the first game of the season.

“We know we have quality in the squad, and we know that they’ll get better as they get game time and partnerships develop. Leicester coming to Kingsholm has focused the mind. There’s been an edge in training all week, I think we’ve trained very well and prepared as you’d hope and expect.”

Meanwhile, World Cup winner Brad Thorn and prop Michele Rizzo will make their Leicester Tigers debuts in Saturday’s Aviva Premiership match.

Former All Blacks lock Thorn and Italy international front-rower Rizzo make their first appearances for the club after recovering from injury.

Thorn teams up with Graham Kitchener in the second row, with Rizzo alongside Leonardo Ghiraldini and Fraser Balmain in the Tigers front row.

Two more summer signings, Seremaia Bai and Robert Barbieri, return to the Tigers starting line-up for the Round 5 fixture.

Form: The Tigers have lost two in a row in the Premiership, a heaviest ever league defeat at the Rec to Bath that was followed up by a narrow loss at Welford Road against London Irish. That was their first loss on home soil since November of last year. Gloucester were defeated 22-25 by Exeter Chiefs in their most recent home game and have not lost successive Aviva Premiership Rugby encounters at Kingsholm since last November. Leicester Tigers have lost their last two matches against Bath and London Irish and have not been defeated in three successive Aviva Premiership Rugby matches since October 2011. Gloucester’s only victory in their last eight fixtures against Tigers in all tournaments was 27-21 at Kingsholm in Premiership Rugby on 27 October 2012.

The teams:

Gloucester: 15 Rob Cook, 14 Charlie Sharples, 13 Henry Purdy, 12 Billy Twelvetrees (capt), 11 Jonny May, 10 James Hook, 9 Greig Laidlaw, 8 Ben Morgan, 7 Matt Kvesic, 6 Sione Kalamafoni, 5 Tom Palmer, 4 Tom Savage, 3 John Afoa, 2 Richard Hibbard, 1 Nick Wood.
Replacements: 16 Aleki Lutui, 17 Yann Thomas, 18 Sila Puafisi, 19 Elliott Stooke, 20 Ross Moriarty, 21 Dan Robson, 22 Mark Atkinson, 23 Tom Isaacs.

Leicester: 15 Mathew Tait, 14 Blaine Scully, 13 Vereniki Goneva, 12 Seremaia Bai, 11 Miles Benjamin, 10 Owen Williams, 9 Ben Youngs (c), 8 Robert Barbieri, 7 Julian Salvi, 6 Jamie Gibson, 5 Graham Kitchener, 4 Brad Thorn, 3 Fraser Balmain, 2 Leonardo Ghiraldini, 1 Michele Rizzo.
Replacements: 16 Neil Briggs, 17 Tom Bristow, 18 Tiziano Pasquali, 19 Sebastian De Chaves, 20 Jordan Crane, 21 David Mele, 22 Freddie Burns, 23 Matt Smith.

Date: Saturday, October 4
Venue: Kingsholm
Kick-off: 15:15 local (14:15 GMT)
Referee: Andrew Small
Assistant Referees: Ashley Rowden, Roger Baileff
TMO: Sean Davey