Preview: Worcester Warriors v Gloucester

Date published: September 8 2016

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British and Irish Lion Donncha O'Callaghan returns to the Worcester side for their first home match of the Premiership season on Friday against neighbours Gloucester.

O'Callaghan is one of three changes to the starting line-up along with tighthead prop James Johnston and flanker Alafoti Faosiliva, while Phil Dowson skippers the side from number eight.

Head coach Carl Hogg, who spent seven years at Gloucester before making the move up the M5 to Sixways, keeps the same backline that featured at Twickenham against Saracens last weekend.

Former Gloucester player Ryan Lamb starts at fly-half for Warriors, and is just 11 Premiership points short of the 1000-mark.

Tighthead Mike Daniels and flanker Carl Kirwan are named among the replacements as Warriors look to pick up their first win of the campaign.

Hogg said: "You couldn't have hand-picked a better home game to start the season. Playing against Gloucester in a big local derby on a Friday night will produce a fantastic atmosphere and we're all excited to begin our Sixways campaign.

"Last weekend we didn't really get ball in hand. Now it's about getting an opportunity to put our game on the field. 

"We want to make ourselves really tough to beat at home and that starts this Friday night."

Meanwhile, Gloucester keep faith with the XV that started against the Leicester Tigers last weekend as they prepare for their first Premiership fixture on the road this season.

The Cherry and Whites make just two changes to the matchday 23. Former Australia U20 prop Cameron Orr replaces Paddy McAllister on the bench and centre Mark Atkinson comes in for Gareth Evans, also amongst the replacements.

Gloucester are looking to bounce back after the 31-38 reverse at home to Leicester last weekend, and Director of Rugby David Humphreys was asked when he spoke to the local media this week whether a local derby is a good game to tackle this week.

"I'm not sure I'd say it's a good game, I think it's a tough game. I know that every game that we're going to play this year will be tough. You look back at the results over the course of the weekend, the majority were decided by less than one score.

"That's how it's been for us over the course of the past couple of years. We've been there and thereabouts, we've been within touching distance of wins with bonus points and picking up losing bonus points.

"Every week we know there's a huge challenge ahead. If we're going to win the game, we'll have to be at our very best as we were for the first 50 minutes of last Friday night's game. It's a big season ahead and every week is going to be tough.

"They (Worcester) are a good team, we know they're a good team, we know their team well. We played them both in Europe and the Aviva Premiership last year, they have a good coaching team in place.

"We know what their strengths are, but it's about playing to our strengths and we've placed a real focus on reproducing the positive elements of the first 50 minutes of last week's performance.”

Form: Worcester Warriors have slipped to five straight defeats in the Premiership, whilst their only victory in the opening two rounds of the season since 2011 came when they defeated Northampton Saints 13-12 at Sixways in the opening game of last season. Gloucester’s last three Premiership contests have all been won by the away side on the day, with Gloucester victorious at Sale in Round 21 and then losing at home to Northampton and Leicester. Gloucester have not lost their opening two fixtures of the season since 2013/14. The two clubs met on four occasions last season with each side winning its respective home game in the Premiership, but Gloucester achieving the double in the European Challenge Cup. Gloucester’s only victory at Sixways in the Premiership since 2006 was by a single point in May 2010. 

The teams:

Worcester Warriors: 15 Jackson Willison, 14 Dean Hammond, 13 Wynand Olivier, 12 Ben Te’o, 11 Cooper Vuna, 10 Ryan Lamb, 9 Jonny Arr, 8 GJ van Velze (c), 7 Marco Mama, 6 Alafoti Faosiliva, 5 Darren Barry, 4 Donncha O'Callaghan, 3 James Johnston, 2 Niall Annett, 1 Val Rapava Ruskin
Replacements: 16 Jaba Bregvadze, 17 Na’ama Leleimalefaga, 18 Mike Daniels, 19 Christian Scotland-Williamson, 20 Carl Kirwan, 21 Luke Baldwin, 22 Tom Heathcote, 23 Perry Humphreys

Gloucester: 15 Tom Marshall, 14 Charlie Sharples, 13 Matt Scott, 12 Billy Twelvetrees, 11 Henry Purdy, 10 Billy Burns, 9 Greig Laidlaw (c), 8 Ben Morgan, 7 Matt Kvesic, 6 Ross Moriarty, 5 Mariano Galarza, 4 Tom Savage, 3 John Afoa, 2 Richard Hibbard, 1 Yann Thomas
Replacements: 16 Darren Dawidiuk, 17 Cameron Orr, 18 Paul Doran-Jones, 19 Joe Latta, 20 Jacob Rowan, 21 Willi Heinz, 22 James Hook, 23 Mark Atkinson

Date: Friday, September 9
Venue: Sixways
Kick-off: 19:45 BST (18:45 GMT)
Referee: Luke Pearce
Assistant Referees: Paul Dix, Roy Maybank
TMO: Stuart Terheege

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