Preview: Gloucester v Worcester

Date published: January 6 2017

There are five changes to Gloucester’s team for their local derby against Worcester, including the return of Greig Laidlaw at scrum-half.

It will be the second time that the two teams will have met in the Premiership this season, following the thrilling 23-23 draw at Sixways in Round Two.

In addition to the return of Laidlaw, with Willi Heinz having to observe the return to play protocols, Charlie Sharples recovers from injury and returns on the right wing, while Matt Scott is back alongside Billy Twelvetrees in the midfield.

Gloucester retain the same front five that started against Saints, but bring back Ross Moriarty and Jacob Rowan in the back row for Lewis Ludlow and Matt Kvesic respectively.

Amongst the replacements, Mariano Galarza is denied an opportunity to face his former club as he is ruled out with flu. And there’s a possibility of a first Aviva Premiership appearance for Ben Vellacott as Callum Braley has picked up a knock in training.

Head Coach Laurie Fisher said: “We’ve come out and trained brilliantly this week, both unit sessions and team sessions. Really good energy, really combative, good accuracy. I think we’re in a good place moving forward.

“They’re a physical side. They’re powerful with a couple of big ball carriers, a huge pack, a quality scrum. We’ve had to do our work in training this week and roll our sleeves up so that we can meet that challenge. They have quality in what they do. They’ve scored some wonderful tries this season. They can play some quality rugby and will take huge confidence from their performance last weekend. I think they’re a challenging team.

“It’s hard to blow anyone away in this competition. They’re in a lot of games for a long period of time. They’re probably had a couple of disappointing performances, but they’re a really tough opposition.”

Meanwhile Warriors youngster Jamie Shillcock returns to the side Saturday’s game.

The 19-year-old is one of three changes to the starting 15 which beat Harlequins at Sixways on New Year’s Day as Phil Dowson is restored as captain at number eight.

Dowson replaces Dewald Potgieter, who picked up a knock last Sunday, while Shillcock replaces Josh Adams, who also took a blow to the face against Quins.

Ben Te’o also misses out after failing a late fitness test following an ankle injury sustained last weekend, meaning Wynand Olivier starts at outside centre.

Head Coach Carl Hogg has opted for six forward replacements on the bench, with two locks including Tevita Cavubati and Will Spencer, while back row Marco Mama could make his first Premiership appearance since September.

There is a welcome return for scrum-half Luke Baldwin on the bench, who could make his first appearance since October and also Ben Howard, who could be in line for his first Premiership appearance of the season.

Form: Earlier in the season this fixture produced a sensational 23-23 draw. Gloucester’s five-game winning run at Kingsholm in all tournaments ended with their single point defeat to Northampton on New Year’s Day. Worcester Warriors doubled their tally of victories in Premiership Rugby this season with their 24-17 win at home to Harlequins in Round 12. The Warriors have yet to record a single league point from their six away games in the tournament this season. Worcester have lost just one of their last four Premiership Rugby fixtures against the Cherry and Whites and that was by only two points at Kingsholm in Round 3 last season. The Warriors only victory at Gloucester in competition rugby was 13-6 in Premiership Rugby in April 2009.

The teams:

Gloucester: 15 James Hook, 14 Charlie Sharples, 13 Matt Scott, 12 Billy Twelvetrees, 11 Jonny May, 10 Billy Burns, 9 Greig Laidlaw (c), 8 Ben Morgan, 7 Jacob Rowan, 6 Ross Moriarty, 5 Jeremy Thrush, 4 Tom Savage, 3 Salesi Ma’afu, 2 Richard Hibbard, 1 Josh Hohneck
Replacements: 16 Motu Matu’u, 17 Paddy McAllister, 18 John Afoa, 19 Joe Latta, 20 Lewis Ludlow, 21 Ben Vellacott, 22 Andy Symons, 23 Henry Purdy

Worcester: 15 Jamie Shillcock, 14 Dean Hammond, 13 Wynand Olivier, 12 Jackson Willison, 11 Cooper Vuna, 10 Ryan Mills, 9 Michael Dowsett, 8 Phil Dowson (c), 7 Sam Lewis, 6 Alafoti Faosiliva, 5 Darren Barry, 4 Donncha O’Callaghan, 3 Nick Schonert, 2 Jack Singleton, 1 Val Rapava Ruskin
Replacements: 16 Jaba Bregvadze, 17 Na’ama Leleimalefaga, 18 Biyi Alo, 19 Tevita Cavubati, 20 Will Spencer, 21 Marco Mama, 22 Luke Baldwin, 23 Ben Howard

Date: Saturday, January 7
Venue: Kingsholm
Kick-off: 15:00 GMT
Referee: Wayne Barnes
Assistant Referees: Thomas Foley, Luke Pearce
TMO: David Sainsbury