Preview: Gloucester v London Irish

Date published: May 8 2015

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With London Irish the visitors to Kingsholm on Saturday, flanker Dan Thomas will make his first start in the Premiership for Gloucester as one of six changes from the team that started against Edinburgh last weekend.

Gloucester, of course, lifted the Challenge Cup at the Stoop with victory last Friday evening, but the focus is now well and truly on the final two rounds of the Premiership season.

Thomas replaces Ross Moriarty who is suspended following an independent disciplinary hearing. Similarly, Brendan Macken comes in for Bill Meakes who is also suspended.

The Welsh flanker has been a standout performer for Hartpury in their National League One efforts this season, but shone during Gloucester's LV= Cup campaign, scoring two tries and picking up a Man of the Match award.

Yann Thomas and Sila Puafisi will form a new look front row, packing down alongside hooker Richard Hibbard while Mariano Galarza, who replaced Tom Palmer at half time at the Stoop, gets the start this week.

The one other change sees Billy Burns get the nod at fly half in place of James Hook.

Gloucester come into the game having won four out of their last five games, and are unbeaten at Kingsholm in 2015, however Laurie Fisher insisted that Gloucester need to be wary of the threat that the Exiles pose when he spoke to the local media this week.

"It's an important game against a team that's one position below us and has won one fewer game than us. I expect it's going to be a close game. You saw how Newcastle were able to challenge us last time we were at home," said Fisher.

"Their motivation is probably similar to ours. Neither of us can make top four or top six, but it's a Premiership game, we're at home and we want to put in a performance in front of our own supporters.

"Irish will be motivated. I'm not expecting them to put the season over signs up just yet. Their first 40 minutes against Bath recently was very combative and I'd expect nothing less at the weekend.”

Meanwhile, London Irish head coach Glenn Delaney has made three changes to his starting line-up. All three changes come in the backline, with the pack unchanged from the last outing versus Bath.
 
Tom Court, David Paice and Richard Palframan pack down in the front row with George Skivington captaining the side from the second row alongside Jebb Sinclair. The back row sees number eight Tom Guest joined by Blair Cowan on the openside and Luke Narraway at blindside flanker.
 
Tomás O’Leary comes in to start at scrum half, forming a halfback partnership with Chris Noakes. Shane Geraghty starts at inside centre, with Eoin Griffin outside him.
 
In the back three, James Short and Alex Lewington start on the wings with Andrew Fenby at full-back.
 
Delaney said of his selection; “We have made a few changes this week. There have been a couple of players who have picked up knocks and the guys who have come in have earned their place. Gloucester will be buoyed coming off the back of their Challenge Cup win so it will be a big challenge for us in one of the great traditional grounds of English rugby.”

Form:  On paper the game appears to be a dead rubber with Gloucester having sealed a spot in the play-off for qualification to Europe's top table with victory in the European Rugby Challenge Final against Edinburgh last Friday. Irish meanwhile are down in tenth in the table and have only won once away from home since September. The Cherry & Whites have won their last three matches in all tournaments and have not been defeated at Kingsholm in any competition in 2015. Irish have won just one of their last seven fixtures with Gloucester in all tournaments – 18-12 at Kingsholm in Aviva Premiership Rugby on 5th January 2013.

The teams:

Gloucester: 15 Charlie Sharples, 14 Jonny May, 13 Brendan Macken, 12 Billy Twelvetrees (c), 11 Henry Purdy, 10 Billy Burns, 9 Greig Laidlaw, 8 Gareth Evans, 7 Matt Kvesic, 6 Dan Thomas, 5 Mariano Galarza, 4 Tom Savage, 3 Sila Puafisi, 2 Richard Hibbard, 1 Yann Thomas
Replacements: 16 Darren Dawidiuk, 17 Nick Wood, 18 Shaun Knight, 19 Elliott Stooke, 20 James Hudson, 21 Callum Braley, 22 James Hook, 23 Steve McColl

Irish: 15 Andrew Fenby, 14 Alex Lewington, 13 Eoin Griffin, 12 Shane Geraghty, 11 James Short, 10 Chris Noakes, 9 Tomás O’Leary, 8 Tom Guest, 7 Blair Cowan, 6 Luke Narraway, 5 Jebb Sinclair, 4 George Skivington (c), 3 Richard Palframan, 2 David Paice, 1 Tom Court
Replacements: 16 Jimmy Stevens, 17 Tom Smallbone, 18 Halani Aulika, 19 Dan Leo, 20 Kieran Low, 21 Callum Watson, 22 Eamonn Sheridan, 23 Andy Short

Date: Saturday, May 9
Venue: Kingsholm
Kick-off: 15:00 local (14:00 GMT)
Referee: Craig Maxwell-Keys
Assistant Referees: Andrew Pearce, Roger Baileff
TMO: Robin Goodliffe

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