Preview: London Irish v Gloucester

Date published: March 18 2016

London Irish have made two changes from the side that made the trip to New Jersey for this Sunday’s game against Gloucester.

Tom Court replaces Tom Smallbone at loosehead prop, while Will Lloyd comes in for Elliott Stooke at second-row as the Exiles look to secure valuable Premiership points in front of what will be the biggest home crowd of the campaign so far.

Exiles head coach Tom Coventry sticks with the same backline that served him well for large periods of last weekend’s 26-16 defeat to Saracens, with Greig Tonks retaining the fly-half berth.

“We need to perform well and the signs are good – we played well against Saracens, but unfortunately we let them get away at the end of the game,” said Coventry.

He added: “If we continue to grow and come up with a collegial approach to the game, then I’m sure we will be okay. We had a great week in the US and we were very well hosted by the New York Jets.

“It was disappointing not to get the win over Saracens, but we played some very good rugby. On our return to England it was all about getting the lads through recovery and preparing them for this weekend’s game.

“We feel well prepared and things have gradually built as we’ve got closer to the game.”    

It promises to be an electric atmosphere inside the Madejski Stadium for Sunday’s St Patrick’s Day Game. And the Kiwi coach is eagerly anticipating the occasion, saying: “It’s one of the biggest days in the London Irish calendar. St Patrick’s Day is a huge day for people from Ireland, and we are expecting a big crowd at the game, who will hopefully enjoy a good game of rugby.”

Meanwhile, New Zealander Tom Marshall will make his Gloucester debut on Sunday when he lines up at full-back against London Irish.

Marshall joined Gloucester from the Chiefs this season but has been rehabbing from knee surgery. However, he is now ready to play his part in the end of season run-in.

His inclusion is one of three changes to the back line from last weekend's defeat at Worcester.

Callum Braley, who replaced Willi Heinz after just six minutes at Sixways, starts at scrum-half while Henry Trinder takes over from David Halaifonua on the left wing.

There are two changes in the pack. Mariano Galarza comes in for Tom Savage and will partner Jeremy Thrush in the second row, while Lewis Ludlow will start at number eight in place of Ross Moriarty who is on Six Nations duty with Wales.

Meanwhile, amongst the replacements, Gareth Evans is set for just his second appearance of the season and there is a call up for England U18 scrum-half Harry Randall.

Form: The Exiles have won three of their last four Premiership encounters at Madejski Stadium only losing there to Exeter Chiefs in Round 13. Gloucester's last five fixtures in Premiership Rugby have all gone with home field advantage. Away from home, the Cherry & Whites have won just one of their last seven trips in Premiership Rugby: 15-11 at Bath on February 5. London Irish have won only one of their last nine encounters with Gloucester in all tournaments: 18-12 at Kingsholm in Premiership Rugby in January 2013, whilst Gloucester have won on their last four visits to Reading.

The teams: 

London Irish: 15 Sean Maitland, 14 Alex Lewington, 13 Ciaran Hearn, 12 Johnny Williams, 11 Topsy Ojo, 10 Greig Tonks, 9 Scott Steele, 8 Rob McCusker, 7 Blair Cowan, 6 Luke Narraway (c), 5 Matt Symons, 4 Will Lloyd, 3 Halani Aulika, 2 Tom Cruse, 1 Tom Court
Replacements: 16 David Paice, 17 Tom Smallbone, 18 Leo Halavatau, 19 Jerry Sexton, 20 Jebb Sinclair, 21 Brendan McKibbin, 22 Theo Brophy Clews, 23 Fergus Mulchrone

Gloucester: 15 Tom Marshall, 14 Charlie Sharples, 13 Bill Meakes, 12 Billy Twelvetrees (c), 11 Henry Trinder, 10 James Hook, 9 Callum Braley, 8 Lewis Ludlow, 7 Matt Kvesic, 6 Sione Kalamafoni, 5 Mariano Galarza, 4 Jeremy Thrush, 3 John Afoa, 2 Richard Hibbard, 1 Nick Wood
Replacements: 16 Darren Dawidiuk, 17 Yann Thomas, 18 Paul Doran-Jones, 19 Tom Savage, 20 Gareth Evans, 21 Harry Randall, 22 Mark Atkinson, 23 Rob Cook

Date: Sunday, March 20
Venue: Madejski Stadium
Kick-off: 15:00 GMT
Referee: Matthew Carley 
Assistant Referees: Ross Campbell, Paul Dix
TMO: Trevor Fisher