Preview: Leicester v Bath

Date published: January 2 2015

Leicester boss Richard Cockerill has rung the changes to his starting XV for Sunday’s clash with Bath at Welford Road.

The Tigers welcome back Graham Kitchener, Anthony Allen and Blaine Scully following injury.

All three sat out the bonus-point win at Sale Sharks during the weekend after Christmas but have been passed fit to return for the start of the second half of the league programme.

Marcos Ayerza and Tom Youngs, who both started among the replacements at Sale, return to the starting line-up and they are joined in the front row by Fraser Balmain.

Julian Salvi makes his 100th appearance for the club since his debut at the start of 2011/12 season.

Meanwhile, Bath have made five changes to the starting line-up from that which secured a bonus point victory over Exeter Chiefs last time out.

Up front, international props Paul James and David Wilson start either side of Rob Webber at hooker, as England lock Dave Attwood returns to partner club captain Stuart Hooper in the second row.

Carl Fearns comes into the number eight shirt, combining with Matt Garvey and Francois Louw.

Chris Cook and George Ford continue their half-back partnership, and Matt Banahan and Horacio Agulla start on the wings.

Kyle Eastmond is joined in the midfield by Sam Burgess at outside centre with Anthony Watson completing the line-up at full-back.

Form: Leicester Tigers’ only defeat in their last six Aviva Premiership Rugby fixtures came when they visited Northampton in Round 10. Leicester have lost just once at Welford Road in the tournament since November 2013: 19-22 to London Irish on 27 September. Bath have won their last seven matches in all competitions since their 6-18 defeat at Exeter in the Anglo-Welsh Cup in November. Bath have won their last three away games in all tournaments, at London Irish and at Gloucester in Aviva Premiership Rugby and at Montpellier in the European Champions Cup. Bath are unbeaten in their last five encounters with the Tigers in all tournaments since Leicester’s most recent triumph: 17-12 at Welford Road in Premiership Rugby on 1 December 2012. The only occasion that Bath have achieved a Premiership double over the Tigers came in season 2003/04.

The teams:

Leicester: 15 Mathew Tait, 14 Blaine Scully, 13 Vereniki Goneva, 12 Anthony Allen, 11 Miles Benjamin, 10 Owen Williams, 9 Ben Youngs (c), 8 Jordan Crane, 7 Julian Salvi, 6 Jamie Gibson, 5 Geoff Parling, 4 Graham Kitchener, 3 Fraser Balmain, 2 Tom Youngs, 1 Marcos Ayerza.
Replacements: 16 Leonardo Ghiraldini, 17 Michele Rizzo, 18 Tiziano Pasquali, 19 Sebastian De Chaves, 20 Robert Barbieri, 21 Sam Harrison, 22 Freddie Burns, 23 Seremaia Bai.

Bath: 15 Anthony Watson, 14 Horacio Agulla, 13 Sam Burgess, 12 Kyle Eastmond, 11 Matt Banahan, 10 George Ford, 9 Chris Cook, 8 Carl Fearns, 7 Francois Louw, 6 Matt Garvey, 5 Dave Attwood, 4 Stuart Hooper (c), 3 David Wilson, 2 Rob Webber, 1 Paul James.
Replacements: 16 Ross Batty, 17 Nick Auterac, 18 Henry Thomas, 19 Dominic Day, 20 Leroy Houston, 21 Micky Young, 22 Ollie Devoto, 23 Jonathan Joseph.

Date: Sunday, 4 January
Venue: Welford Road
Kick-off: 14.00 GMT
Referee: Matthew Carley
Assistant referees: Ross Campbell and Paul Dix
Television match official: Graham Hughes