Preview: Worcester Warriors v Leicester Tigers

Date published: December 4 2015

Worcester director of rugby Dean Ryan makes two changes to the starting line-up ahead of Saturday's clash with Leicester Tigers at Sixways.

Tighthead prop Joe Rees, who bagged his first professional try at Twickenham last weekend, comes in for Nick Schonert while Matt Cox returns to the back row in place of GJ van Velze.

Phil Dowson will skipper the side at number eight with Cox and Sam Betty supporting him in the back row.

In the pack, Na'ama Leleimalefaga lines up at loosehead prop next to Niall Annett and Rees while Donncha O'Callaghan and Darren Barry keep their spots in the second row.

The backline remains unchanged with the potent back three of Chris Pennell, Bryce Heem and Cooper Vuna, while Ryan Mills and Wynand Olivier start in the centre.

Jonny Arr continues at scrum-half after having signed a new contract with the club earlier this week, while Tom Heathcote will look to pull the strings from the number ten berth.

Academy prop Gareth Milasinovich and flanker Marco Mama are named on the bench.

Ryan said: "All the big top four are coming in the next few weeks and over Christmas so let's keep putting ourselves out there and let's keep seeing where we are at and keep improving.

"We are at home and unbeaten at Sixways this season so let's get ourselves out there.

"Leicester are not as clinical at certain things as Saracens but they are very physical at other areas.

"There's a lot of talk about changes to their game but they don't lose what Leicester are. The reason why they have been so successful are built on pretty solid foundations of physicality in key areas and I don't expect that to change.”

Meanwhile, Vereniki Goneva and Owen Williams return to the Leicester Tigers team.

Both men missed the wins over Treviso in Europe and Bath in the last round of league action, but return for the weekend trip to Sixways.

Club captain Ed Slater leads the team after making his 100th appearance for the Tigers in the win over Bath, and he is joined in the second row by Graham Kitchener in his first start of the season.

There is some rotation in the forward pack with Matias Aguero starting in the front row for the first time and Jordan Crane returning at number eight. The replacements include international front rows Marcos Ayerza and Tom Youngs.

Form: Worcester Warriors' only victory in their last four Premiership Rugby encounters was 28-20 at home to Newcastle Falcons in Round Four. The Warriors have lost only one of their last 22 home games at Sixways in all competitions: 26-30 to Bristol in the RFU Championship in April. Leicester Tigers only defeat in any major competition since last season’s Premiership Rugby semi-final came on a trip to Exeter in Round Four. Tigers have achieved only one try bonus point in Premiership Rugby in 2015 – at home to London Welsh in April. Leicester have won their last 11 contests with Worcester in all tournaments, whilst the Warriors only two victories over the Tigers were both at Sixways in Premiership Rugby with a winning margin of four points in 2005 and 2008.

The teams:

Worcester: 15 Chris Pennell, 14 Bryce Heem, 13 Wynand Olivier, 12 Ryan Mills, 11 Cooper Vuna, 10 Tom Heathcote, 9 Jonny Arr, 8 Phil Dowson (c), 7 Sam Betty, 6 Matt Cox, 5 Darren Barry, 4 Donncha O'Callaghan, 3 Joe Rees, 2 Niall Annett, 1 Na'ama Leleimalefaga
Replacements: 16 Jaba Bregvadze, 17 Val Rapava Ruskin, 18 Gareth Milasinovich, 19 Tevita Cavubati, 20 Marco Mama, 21 Charlie Mulchrone, 22 Ryan Lamb, 23 Ben Howard

Leicester: 15 Telusa Veainu, 14 Adam Thompstone , 13 Peter Betham , 12 Seremaia Bai , 11 Vereniki Goneva , 10 Owen Williams, 9 Sam Harrison, 8 Jordan Crane, 7 Tom Croft, 6 Mike Williams, 5 Graham Kitchener, 4 Ed Slater (c), 3 Dan Cole, 2 Greg Bateman, 1 Matias Aguero
Replacements: 16 Tom Youngs, 17 Marcos Ayerza, 18 Fraser Balmain, 19 Dom Barrow, 20 Lachlan McCaffrey, 21 Jono Kitto, 22 Tommy Bell, 23 Matt Smith

Date: Saturday, December 5
Venue: Sixways
Kick-off: 15:00 GMT
Referee: Wayne Barnes
Assistant Referees: Paul Burton, Andrew Pearce
TMO: Sean Davey