Preview: London Irish v Worcester

Date published: February 5 2016

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London Irish’s record try scorer, Topsy Ojo, will make his 250th appearance for the club against Worcester Warriors.

The Irish winger has become a stalwart of the club after joining the Academy in 2003. He made his debut against Wasps in October 2005 and has gone on to score 71 tries in 249 appearances.

Tom Coventry has made four changes to the side that played against Sale last weekend for Sunday’s crucial Premiership fixture.

Andrew Fenby, Fergus Mulchrone, Jebb Sinclair and Rob McCusker all come in to the starting line-up. Tom Court, David Paice and Halani Aulika are once again together in the front row with Matt Symons and Will Lloyd in the second row. Jebb Sinclair, Luke Narraway and Rob McCusker are the back row trio.

Brendan McKibbin and Shane Geraghty are named at scrum-half and fly-half respectively with Fergus Mulchrone joining Ciaran Hearn in the centre. Topsy Ojo, Aseli Tikoirotuma and Andrew Fenby are named in the back three.

Coventry said: “Last weekend’s result at Sale was disappointing. We have analysed the performance, been honest as a group and have prepared for Sunday’s match with Worcester.

"We are delighted and very proud of Topsy’s achievements in reaching this impressive milestone. It is a special moment in his career and we will do our best to celebrate with a good performance on Sunday.”

Meanwhile, Worcester director of rugby Dean Ryan has made just one change to his starting XV.

Matt Cox comes in at openside flanker in place of Marco Mama as Warriors go in search of an all-important third league victory of the season.

An unchanged backline sees the exciting back three of Chris Pennell, Cooper Vuna and Bryce Heem while Wynand Olivier and Ryan Mills maintain their spots in the centre.

Luke Baldwin continues to be rewarded for his good form with a start at nine, while Tom Heathcote links up with him at fly-half.

Na'ama Leleimalefaga, Niall Annett and Nick Schonert make up the front row followed by giants Donncha O'Callaghan and Tevita Cavubati in the second row. GJ van Velze skippers the side in the back row next to Phil Dowson and Cox.

Meanwhile, there are a number of changes to the replacements bench with Georgia international hooker Jaba Bregvadze, prop Val Rapava Ruskin and fly-half Ryan Lamb all added to the side.

Ryan said: "Irish are a side we would expect to be competitive with and have a chance of winning against.

"We're very much looking forward to the challenge of seeing the things we've done well against good sides and if that can really transfer into a contest with a side that's probably operating at similar levels to ourselves.

"You compare the scrum we've got now to the one we've had in the first few games and it's very different although it's the same people.

"But that's what this whole season is about – we've got to keep improving and learning to give ourselves a foot up into this league.

"We've shown signs of that but we now have to transfer those displays into wins.”

Form: London Irish’s last five matches in Premiership Rugby have all been won by the home side on the day, whilst at Madejski Stadium the Exiles 18-28 reversal to Grenoble last time out ended a four game winning run at the venue in all tournaments. Worcester Warriors have slipped to eleven straight defeats in all tournaments since beating La Rochelle 19-3 at Sixways in the European Challenge Cup on 14th November. The Warriors have won only once on the road in Premiership Rugby since 1st January 2012: 17-12 at Newcastle on 30th March 2014. The Irishmen’s only reversal in their last eight fixtures with Warriors in all tournaments was 11-35 at Sixways in Premiership Rugby in September 2012, whilst Worcester’s only previous victory at Madejski Stadium came in September 2005.

The teams:

London Irish: 15 Andrew Fenby, 14 Topsy Ojo, 13 Ciaran Hearn, 12 Fergus Mulchrone, 11 Aseli Tikoirotuma, 10 Shane Geraghty, 9 Brendan McKibbin, 8 Rob McCusker, 7 Luke Narraway, 6 Jebb Sinclair, 5 Will Lloyd, 4 Matt Symons, 3 Halani Aulika, 2 David Paice, 1 Tom Court
Replacements: 16 Gerard Ellis, 17 Tom Smallbone, 18 Leo Halavatau, 19 Ian Nagle, 20 Tom Guest, 21 Scott Steele, 22 Johnny Williams, 23 Theo Brophy-Clews

Worcester: 15 Chris Pennell, 14 Bryce Heem 13 Wynand Olivier, 12 Ryan Mills, 11 Cooper Vuna, 10 Tom Heathcote 9 Luke Baldwin, 8 GJ van Velze (c), 7 Matt Cox, 6 Phil Dowson, 5 Tevita Cavubati, 4 Donncha O'Callaghan, 3 Nick Schonert, 2 Niall Annett, 1 Na'ama Leleimalefaga
Replacements: 
16 Jaba Bregvadze, 17 Val Rapava Ruskin, 18 James Johnston, 19 Dan Sanderson, 20 Marco Mama, 21 Charlie Mulchrone, 22 Ryan Lamb, 23 Andy Symons

Date: Sunday, February 7
Venue: Madejski Stadium
Kick-off: 13:00 GMT
Referee: Wayne Barnes
Assistant Referees: Ian Tempest, Ashley Rowden
TMO: David Sainsbury

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