Preview: London Welsh v Leicester

Date published: August 31 2012

Vereniki Goneva and Rob Andrew will make their league debuts for Leicester in the opening game of the new season at London Welsh.

Vereniki Goneva and Rob Andrew will make their league debuts for Tigers in the opening game of the new season at London Welsh on Sunday.

Fijian wing Goneva makes his first Premiership appearance after a move from Tarbes in France, while South African second-row Andrew also runs out for the first time in the competition.

Geordan Murphy, beginning his sixteenth season as a Leicester Tiger, leads the team as captain.

Brett Deacon, who returned to his hometown club after two seasons with Gloucester, is named among the replacements. Jordan Crane, who missed the entire 2010/11 season with a knee injury, makes his return to the squad.

“London Welsh fought hard to get into the Aviva Premiership and it will be a big occasion for them in their first Premiership game. There is a lot of experience in their squad and their coaching team,” said Tigers director of rugby Richard Cockerill.

“We've got to be accurate in what we do. We've got some good competition for places in the squad, we've given them all valuable game-time in the pre-season, but this is where it really matters.”

Meanwhile, London Welsh head coach Lyn Jones has named an experienced side for the Exiles' Aviva Premiership debut against Leicester at the Kassam Stadium.

The Welsh side contains five of the starting line up that clinched the Championship at the Kassam on May 30 – captain Jonathan Mills, Gordon Ross, Joe Ajuwa, Lee Beach and Hudson Tonga'uiha.

Mills, who made his debut for Welsh on loan from the Scarlets in January 2007, will be making his 144th appearance for the club.

Ross won the last of his 25 caps for Scotland in 2006 and is beginning his fourth season at Old Deer Park, while Ajuwa contributed ten tries to the Exiles' Championship winning campaign.

Tonga'uiha is the brother of Northampton prop Soane and was the club's leading try scorer last season in the Championship, with 12. Beach captained Wales to Sevens World Cup glory in 2009 in Dubai and was man of the match in the second leg of the Championship final against the Pirates.

Of the club's summer additions, internationals Phil MacKenzie (Canada), Sonny Parker (Wales), Franck Montanella (France), Paulica Ion (Romania) and Kirill Kulemin (Russia) all start on Sunday.

Form: London Welsh are participating in England's top division for the first time and become the 20th different side to play Premiership rugby. The Exiles concluded last season's RFU Championship campaign with four wins in their last five games. Oxford's Kassam Stadium becomes the 31st new venue to host a Premiership encounter. Leicester Tigers have lost their opening fixture in Aviva Premiership Rugby for the past three seasons. The Tigers won their last eight games of the regular season in the Premiership last year. This is Leicester's first visit to Kassam Stadium, whilst the club have not played in the city of Oxford since a visit to Iffley Road to take on the Dark Blues in 1994. The two clubs have met just once before in competitive rugby, a 43-3 win for the Tigers at Old Deer Park in the 3rd round of the Pilkington Cup in January 1990, whilst the last time they met in a friendly was in December 1995 at Welford Road (Leicester winning 62-19).

The teams:

London Welsh: 15 Tom Arscott, 14 Phil MacKenzie, 13 Sonny Parker, 12. Hudson Tonga'uiha, 11 Joe Ajuwa, 10 Gordon Ross, 9 Jonah Holmes, 8 Daniel Browne, 7 Lee Beach, 6 Ed Williamson, 5 Kirill Kulemin, 4 Jonathan Mills (capt), 3 Paulica Ion, 2 Neil Briggs, 1 Franck Montanella.
Replacements: 16 Greg Bateman, 17 Tom Bristow, 18 Arthur Joly, 19 Martin Purdy, 20 Alfie To'oala, 21 Nick Runciman, 22 Seb Jewell, 23 Nick Scott.

Leicester: 15 Geordan Murphy (c), 14 Scott Hamilton, 13 Manusamoa Tuilagi, 12 Anthony Allen, 11 Vereniki Goneva, 10 Toby Flood, 9 Micky Young, 8 Thomas Waldrom, 7 Julian Salvi, 6 Steve Mafi, 5 Geoff Parling, 4 Rob Andrew, 3 Dan Cole, 2 Tom Youngs, 1 Logovi'i Mulipola.
Replacements: 16 George Chuter, 17 Boris Stankovich, 18 Martin Castrogiovanni, 19 Brett Deacon, 20 Jordan Crane, 21 Sam Harrison, 22 George Ford, 23 Matt Smith.

Date: Saturday, 2 September
Venue: Kassam Stadium
Kick-off: 14:00
Referee: JP Doyle
Assistant referees: Nigel Carrick, Andrew Watson
Television match official: Geoff Warren