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Preview: Gloucester v Northampton

18th September 2009 12:20

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Lesley Vainikolo Saracens v Gloucester

He's back: Lesley Vainikolo

Gloucester have rung the changes for the visit of Northampton to Kingsholm, with Lesley Vainikolo and Peter Buxton returning this Saturday.

The comeback of the duo is their first rugby action of the season as the 'Volcano' last appeared against Connacht during pre-season, when he had to leave the action early having injured his groin. But with off-the-field matters behind him for the time being, he is ready for the first whistle.

Similarly, Buxton has been pushing hard for selection for the past two weekends having recovered from the foot injury that ended his 2008/09 campaign early so he gets the nod.

Elsewhere in a strong looking back-line, Mike Tindall returns at centre and resumes the captaincy, James Simpson-Daniel is restored to the wing and Dave Lewis gets his first start of the season at scrum-half ahead of Rory Lawson.

Up front, Marco Bortolami comes in for Alex Brown in the second row whilst Akapusi Qera replaces the suspended Andy Hazell. There is also a welcome return on the replacements bench for crowd favourite Olivier Azam whilst Paul Doran-Jones makes the matchday 23.

"We didn't perform particularly well and didn't get any continuity in our phase game. We're aware of that and many of our mistakes last week were as a result of not having a great platform to work from," said Head Coach, Bryan Redpath.

"We're not going to dwell on it too much but there does need to be a reaction on Saturday as we face a tough game against Northampton.

"Hazey's obviously suspended but Q [Akapusi Qera] is back fit and healthy and he'll be relishing the chance to play at Kingsholm."

"We'll also have Olivier Azam back which is a bonus although Scott Lawson has been outstanding over the past four games. Olly's got different attributes but he hasn't played for a long time so needs to work on his match fitness.

"Peter Buxton is also desperate to play but he hasn't played for several months. He's a big man with a great engine and can help with some of the driving and power issues. It's good to have him back."

Meanwhile, the Saints will be looking to bounce back from their most recent defeat to Saracens at Wembley and have made two changes to their starting XV.

Paul Diggin has dropped out of the squad and is replaced by rugby league convert Chris Ashton on the wing while Roger Wilson's place is taken by Neil Best, with Phil Dowson moving to number eight to accomodate the Irish flank.

"Kingsholm is a very hard place to play and Gloucester don't lose very often at home," said Director of Rugby, Jim Mallinder.

"They have recruited well over the summer and put in a good performance at Kingsholm in Round 1.

"But we took plenty of positives from our last game against Saracens and are looking to build on them tomorrow. We have finished our first two matches strongly, but we want to start well tomorrow as well and put pressure on Gloucester from the first whistle."

Form: Each side won its respective home game when Gloucester met Northampton last season, whereas the Saints' only win at Kingsholm in their last seven visits since 2000 was 26-18 in March 2005. Gloucester Rugby have won just one of their last six matches in all competitions: 24-5 over Bath at Kingsholm in the Guinness Premiership on 6 September. Gloucester's only Premiership defeat at Kingsholm since the opening game of the 2008/09 season remains the 6-13 reversal to near neighbours Worcester on 21 April. The last seven matches that Northampton Saints have played in the Guinness Premiership have all gone the way of the home side on the day, whilst the Saints' only away victory in the Guinness Premiership since February 2007 was 22-12 at Worcester on 7 March 2009.

The teams:

Gloucester: 15 Olly Morgan, 14 James Simpson-Daniel, 13 Mike Tindall (capt), 12 Eliota Fuimaono-Sapolu, 11 Lesley Vainikolo, 10 Nicky Robinson, 9 Dave Lewis, 8 Gareth Delve, 7 Akapusi Qera, 6 Peter Buxton, 5 Marco Bortolami, 4 Dave Attwood, 3 Greg Somerville, 2 Scott Lawson, 1 Alasdair Dickinson.
Replacements: 16 Olivier Azam, 17 Paul Doran-Jones, 18 Pierre Capdevielle, 19 Alex Brown, 20 Alasdair Strokosch, 21 Rory Lawson, 22 Freddie Burns, 23 Tom Voyce.

Northampton: 15 Ben Foden, 14 Chris Ashton, 13 Jon Clarke, 12 James Downey, 11 Bruce Reihana, 10 Shane Geraghty, 9 Lee Dickson, 8 Phil Dowson, 7 Scott Gray, 6 Neil Best, 5 Juandre Kruger, 4 Ignacio Fernandez Lobbe, 3 Santiago Bonorino, 2 Dylan Hartley (capt), 1 Soane Tonga'uiha.
Replacements: 16 Brett Sharman, 17 Brian Mujati, 18 Regardt Dreyer, 19 Courtney Lawes, 20 Roger Wilson, 21 Alan Dickens, 22 Barry Everitt, 23 Chris Mayor.

Date: Saturday, September 19
Kick-off: 15:00 BST
Venue: Kingsholm
Referee: David Rose
Assistant referees: Andrew Pearce, Ken Stewart
Television match official: Laurie Bryant

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