Preview: Leicester v Sale

Date published: December 30 2011

Geordan Murphy and Alesana Tuilagi will bolster the Leicester team for their Premiership clash against Sale at Welford Road.

Captain Geordan Murphy and Alesana Tuilagi will bolster the Leicester team for the Aviva Premiership New Year's Day clash against Sale at Welford Road.

Full-back Murphy and wing Tuilagi were both absent during Tuesday's victory over Worcester Warriors at Sixways, but return to the starting team for Sunday's match.

With Manu Tuilagi missing due to a hamstring injury, Matt Smith moves from wing to centre.

In the pack, Martin Castrogiovanni and Rob Hawkins, who started the Warriors game on the bench, are promoted to the run-on XV while Graham Kitchener replaces the injured Louis Deacon at lock. Steve Mafi and Julian Salvi return to the back row alongside Thomas Waldrom.

“We've had a very short turnaround from Tuesday so we're managing all of the squad through this period,” Director of Rugby Richard Cockerill told the Tigers' official website.

“This is a very important game for us, especially with another home game to follow against Wasps next weekend.

“Sale have had a good start to the season, they are above us in the Aviva Premiership table and Steve Diamond has done a good job in a very short period of time there.”

Meanwhile, Sale Sharks have made two changes in their side with Joaquin Tuculet coming in on the left wing and Tony Buckley taking over at prop.

“It's a massive challenge for us to go to Welford Road, but players and coaches are involved in the game for the chance to visit stadia like that, with a full house, on New Year's Day and put up a performance,” Sharks' Executive Director of Sport Steve Diamond told the team's official website.

“The Leicester crowd is knowledgeable and we hope to show them something to applaud.

“Tigers have a very strong side and will be keen to win this game and also the following Aviva Premiership match. They'll be missing their internationals in the next block, so it will be important to them to get a foothold in the top four, in the next week or two.

“They have a huge squad, we don't. We – fortunately – have a great gang of thirty players. We operate under the salary cap, and we can't rotate that many, so we'll go to Welford Road with the pride and desire that we've been showing in recent games. We've achieved four successive wins, and we'll see what we can do.”

Form: Leicester Tigers' only defeat in any competition since mid October was 12-30 at Clermont Auvergne in the Heineken Cup on 11 December. The Tigers continue to reside at the bottom of the “home” table with just eight league points from their five Aviva Premiership Rugby encounters at Welford Road this season. Sale Sharks have recorded four straight victories in all competitions but have not won five in succession since season 2006/07. The Sharks' two away wins in the Premiership this season have been at Wasps and Bath. Leicester have won their last four encounters with Sale, whilst the Sharks have not lowered the Tigers colours at Welford Road since February 2008.

The teams:

Leicester: 15 Geordan Murphy (capt), 14 Horacio Agulla, 13 Matt Smith, 12 Billy Twelvetrees, 11 Alesana Tuilagi, 10 Toby Flood, 9 Ben Youngs, 8 Thomas Waldrom, 7 Julian Salvi, 6 Steve Mafi, 5 Graham Kitchener, 4 Ed Slater, 3 Dan Cole, 2 Rob Hawkins, 1 Martin Castrogiovanni.
Replacements:16 George Chuter, 17 Boris Stankovich, 18 Logoviii Mulipola, 19 Ben Woods, 20 Tom Croft, 21 Micky Young, 22 Jeremy Staunton, 23 Scott Hamilton.

Sale: 15 Rob Miller, 14 Tom Brady, 13 Johnny Leota, 12 Sam Tuitupou (capt), 11 Joaquin Tuculet, 10 Nick Macleod, 9 Dwayne Peel, 8 Andy Powell, 7 David Seymour, 6 James Gaskell, 5 Andrei Ostrikov, 4 Fraser McKenzie, 3 Tony Buckley, 2 Marc Jones, 1 Alasdair Dickinson.
Replacements: 16 Andy Titterrell, 17 Vadim Cobilas, 18 Henry Thomas, 19 Kearnan Myall, 20 Mark Easter, 21 Cillian Willis, 22 Andrew Higgins, 23 Will Addison.

Date: Saturday, January 1
Venue: Welford Road
Kick-off: 15.30 GMT
Referee: Andrew Small