Preview: Gloucester v Saracens

Date published: January 3 2014

Gloucester boss Nigel Davies has made just one change to his starting XV for Saturday's clash with Saracens at Kingsholm.

Gloucester boss Nigel Davies has made just one change to his starting XV for Saturday's clash with Saracens at Kingsholm.

Freddie Burns returns to the number ten shirt, which sees Billy Twelvetrees move into his more familiar inside centre berth. Mike Tindall shifts across to outside centre in place of Henry Trinder who is rested.

The rest of the starting line-up is the one that took the field at the Madejski Stadium last weekend while, amongst the replacements, hooker Darren Dawidiuk returns to the matchday 23 after missing out at London Irish.

Back to back wins over Worcester Warriors and London Irish have given Gloucester a boost coming into this fixture, but Davies knows that Saracens will pose the toughest possible challenge.

“Saracens are playing extremely well, as everybody knows,” he said.

“They'll bring a different challenge to the last two games, they're physical, committed and very accurate in what they do.

“They play a very structured game and they do it very well. They focus on certain things and do it exceptionally well. You have to be very mindful that you don't play into the pressure that they create.

“They perhaps play a more rounded game than they have in the past, but I think conditions will play a big part this weekend. We're expecting a lot of rain and a heavy pitch, so it could be quite a brutal encounter.”

Meanwhile, for Saracens, Owen Farrell, Chris Ashton and Marcelo Bosch all return to the starting line-up in the backs with Brad Barritt also starting his first game since September following a return from injury.

In the forwards, Steve Borthwick returns to captain the side with James Johnston the only other change in the pack from the side that won at Worcester Warriors in Round 11.

On the bench, prop Rhys Gill is among the replacements having recovered from a shoulder injury.

Form: Gloucester Rugby have won their last two games in Aviva Premiership Rugby but have not won three in a row in the tournament since October 2012. Gloucester's most recent Premiership game at Kingsholm was a 12-6 victory over Worcester, ending a three game losing sequence at the venue in the tournament. Saracens arrive at the halfway stage of the Premiership season having won ten of their eleven games, only the third side to have achieved this since 1999: Bath in 2003/04 and Harlequins in 2011/12. Sarries only loss in their last 12 Premiership regular season encounters was 20-41 at Northampton in Round Six. Gloucester's only victory in their last seven fixtures with Saracens was 28-23 in this equivalent fixture at Kingsholm last season, played on April 20. Saracens have won only once at Gloucester since 2005:19-17 in the Premiership on October 29 2011.

The teams:

Gloucester: 15 Rob Cook, 14 Charlie Sharples, 13 Mike Tindall, 12 Billy Twelvetrees (c), 11 Jonny May, 10 Freddie Burns, 9 Jimmy Cowan, 8 Ben Morgan 7 Matt Kvesic, 6 Matt Cox, 5 James Hudson, 4 Elliott Stooke, 3 Sila Puafisi, 2 Huia Edmonds, 1 Nick Wood.
Replacements: 16 Darren Dawidiuk, 17 Yann Thomas, 18 Shaun Knight, 19 Will James, 20 Gareth Evans, 21 Dan Robson, 22 Shane Monahan, 23 Martyn Thomas.

Saracens: 15 Alex Goode, 14 Chris Ashton, 13 Marcelo Bosch, 12 Brad Barritt, 11 David Strettle, 10 Owen Farrell, 9 Neil de Kock, 8 Billy Vunipola, 7 Kelly Brown, 6 Jackson Wray, 5 Alistair Hargreaves, 4 Steve Borthwick, 3 James Johnston, 2 Schalk Brits, 1 Mako Vunipola.
Replacements: 16 Jamie George, 17 Rhys Gill, 18 Matt Stevens, 19 Mouritz Botha, 20 Justin Melck, 21 Richard Wigglesworth, 22 Charlie Hodgson, 23 Chris Wyles.

Date: Saturday, January 4
Kick-off: 15:15 GMT
Venue: Kingsholm
Referee: Luke Pearce
Assistant referees: Nigel Carrick, Peter Huckle.
Television match official: Rowan Kitt