Preview: Gloucester v Northampton

Date published: August 31 2012

Gloucester will be without skipper Jim Hamilton for their season opener against Northampton Saints at Kingsholm on Saturday.

Gloucester will be without skipper Jim Hamilton for their season opener against Northampton Saints at Kingsholm on Saturday.

Hamilton rolled an ankle in training this week so fellow lock Alex Brown captains the side.

He leads a team that sees first Premiership starts for Gloucester the likes of Billy Twelvetrees, Dan Robson and Ben Morgan. Summer signings Huia Edmonds, Sione Kalamafoni and Martyn Thomas are named amongst the replacements.

Director of Rugby Nigel Davies knows that Northampton will be a tough first opponent but that he's happy with how his side are progressing.

“We're as ready as we can be. We've had a good three months at it after lots of change over the summer – systems, structure, personnel,” he said.
“The preseason games were very important as we targeted certain things to achieve in them. We've learned a lot of lessons from them and gradually got better.
“They're a very good side. I went to watch them in Edinburgh last week and they played very well. We're a side who have been together for three months, they're a side that's been together for three years.
“They've had a lot of stability and have evolved their game. They'll provide the sternest of challenges but that's good. We know they're coming and we've prepared for that.”

Meanwhile Northampton Director of rugby Jim Mallinder says he is looking for the Saints teamstep up their all-round game.

The Saints open their Aviva Premiership Rugby campaign on the road for the first time since 2003, but while the summer has included wins over Leinster and Edinburgh the Saints boss says every player in Saturday's squad will have to improve if they are to come home from Kingsholm with the points.

“Training this summer has been good and we've had some promising pre-season performances, but none of that will count if we don't get a positive result tomorrow,” he commented.

“Gloucester is always a tough place to visit, and they have played well over the past few weeks.
“We know that we need to play a lot better, increase our intensity and accuracy and defend well right from the first whistle. It's going to be interesting to see how both teams go in the game – Gloucester have new coaches and new ideas, while we've brought in a few players and made a couple of changes.
“But we're feeling positive ahead of the trip and we're looking forward to meeting the challenge.”

Form: Gloucester have lost in round one of Aviva Premiership Rugby in three of the past four seasons, including the game at Northampton last year. Gloucester finished off last season with an unwanted run of six straight defeats. Northampton Saints begin the season away from home for the first time since 2005, and have won their last five opening weekend fixtures. The Saints won four of their last five regular season games in Aviva Premiership Rugby last campaign. Gloucester have won three of their last four clashes with Northampton, whilst the Saints have been victorious at Kingsholm just once since 2005: 27-14 on 19 September 2009.

Rugby Union betting odds

The teams:

Gloucester:15 Jonny May, 14 Charlie Sharples, 13 Mike Tindall, 12 Billy Twelvetrees, 11 James Simpson-Daniel, 10 Freddie Burns, 9 Dan Robson, 8 Ben Morgan 7 Akapusi Qera, 6 Matt Cox, 5 Alex Brown (c), 4 Tom Savage, 3 Rupert Harden, 2 Darren Dawidiuk, 1 Nick Wood.
Replacements: 16 Dan Murphy, 17 Huia Edmonds, 18 Shaun Knight, 19 Will James, 20 Sione Kalamafoni, 21 Dave Lewis, 22 Henry Trinder, 23 Martyn Thomas

Northampton Saints:15 Ben Foden, 14 Ken Pisi, 13 George Pisi, 12 Dom Waldouck, 11 Vasily Artemyev, 10 Ryan Lamb, 9 Lee Dickson, 8 GJ Van Velze, 7 Tom Wood, 6 Phil Dowson, 5 Christian Day, 4 Samu Manoa, 3 Brian Mujati, 2 Dylan Hartley (c), 1 Soane Tonga'uiha.
Replacements:16 Mike Haywood, 17 Alex Waller, 18 Paul Doran Jones, 19 Mark Sorenson, 20 Rhys Oakley, 21 Martin Roberts, 22 Stephen Myler, 23 Luther Burrell.

Date: Saturday, September 1
Venue: Kingsholm, Gloucester
Kick-off: 15.00 BST (14.00 GMT)
Referee: Dave Pearson