Preview: Gloucester v Saracens

Date published: January 8 2015

Kelly Brown will captain Saracens on Friday as they travel to Kingsholm to face Gloucester in Round 13 of the Aviva Premiership.

The Scotland international back-rower skippers the side in Alistair Hargreaves’ absence, with the South African lock missing the game with a slight knock

Former Gloucester captain Jim Hamilton comes into the second row to replace Hargreaves and partners George Kruis.

Brown replaces Jackson Wray in the back row.

In the half-backs, Richard Wigglesworth start ahead of Neil de Kock while Argentine international Marcelo Bosch takes over from Nick Tompkins at outside centre

In the back three, full-back Alex Goode and wing Chris Ashton replace Ben Ransom and Chris Wyles respectively

Meanwhile, Gloucester will field the same starting line up that beat Exeter Chiefs at Sandy Park last weekend.

In fact the only change to the matchday 23 from last Saturday’s win in Devon is the return of Welsh international hooker Richard Hibbard amongst the replacements.

Darren Dawidiuk and Jonny May are both named to start which will mean that they are set to make their 100th competitive appearances for the club.

Director of Rugby David Humphreys told the media this week that last week’s win was significant but that Gloucester need to back it up this weekend with an even better performance.

“That win was important for a number of reasons, but mainly because it came after two disappointments at home over the Christmas period,” said Humphreys.

“Perhaps, looking back, we were a bit lucky but there have been plenty of other games this season where we haven’t had that luck.

“It was important from a morale point of view, and gets the New Year off to a winning start. With 10 games still to go it gives us a bit of enthusiasm and encouragement going into this next phase of games.

“There’s been a bit of a buzz about training this week, but also a note of reality because Saracens are coming to Kingsholm and, over the course of the past few seasons, they’ve shown themselves to be one of the top teams. Our record against the top teams hasn’t been great this season so it’s a big opportunity.

“We’ve got to aim for a complete performance. We’ve had certain elements of our game go well in certain matches this season, and we’ll need to be closer to that complete performance on Friday evening.”

Form: Saracens have won five consecutive games since their 19-27 reversal at Exeter Chiefs in Round 9, and have a superb record against Gloucester of late, with eight wins out of nine encounters since 2010. Gloucester are without a win in three Aviva Premiership Rugby matches at Kingsholm, and one more defeat on Friday would signal their worst run at home since the 1995/96 season.

The teams:

For Gloucester: 15 Charlie Sharples, 14 David Halaifonua, 13 Mark Atkinson, 12 Billy Twelvetrees (c), 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 Darren Dawidiuk, 1 Nick Wood.
Replacements:16 Richard Hibbard 17 Yann Thomas, 18 Shaun Knight, 19 Elliott Stooke, 20 Gareth Evans, 21 Dan Robson, 22 Billy Burns, 23 Bill Meakes.

For Saracens: 15 Alex Goode, 14 Chris Ashton, 13 Marcelo Bosch, 12 Duncan Taylor, 11 David Strettle, 10 Owen Farrell, 9 Richard Wigglesworth, 8 Billy Vunipola, 7 Jacques Burger, 6 Kelly Brown, 5 Jim Hamilton, 4 George Kruis, 3 Petrus Du Plessis, 2 Jamie George, 1 Mako Vunipola
Replacements: 16 Brett Sharman, 17 Rhys Gill, 18 James Johnston, 19 Maro Itoje, 20 Ernst Joubert, 21 Neil de Kock, 22 Nick Tompkins, 23 Ben Ransom.

Date: Friday, January 9
Venue: Kingsholm
Kickoff: 19:45 GMT
Referee: JP Doyle
Assistant Referees: Kelvin Stewart, Nigel Carrick
TMO: Rowan Kitt.