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Preview: Gloucester v Saracens

19th April 2013 09:05

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John Smit of Saracens takes on Billy Twelvetrees of Gloucester

Rare start: John Smit

Tom Savage will captain Gloucester against Saracens on Saturday as director of rugby Nigel Davies brings in five new faces to his starting line-up.

It's the penultimate round of the Aviva Premiership campaign, and the final regular-season game at Kingsholm.

Looking to keep alive Gloucester's chances of making the end of season play-offs, Davies makes three changes to his pack and two to his backline.

Injuries to Huia Edmonds and Dario Chistolini at Sale last Friday see Koree Britton and Shaun Knight come in at hooker and tighthead respectively.

Savage takes over the captaincy and moves from the back-row into the second-row. Sione Kalamafoni will wear six, with number eight Ben Morgan returning to the starting line-up for the first time since January 11.

The two changes to the backs are the return of Charlie Sharples on the wing, and Henry Trinder partnering Billy Twelvetrees in midfield in place of Mike Tindall.

Gloucester slipped to defeat at Sale last weekend but, talking to the media this week, Davies stressed that the game at Salford City Stadium has to be viewed in the light of the season as a whole.

"Last week was disappointing. But you have to put it in the context of our season. It's the only game away from home where we haven't been competitive," he said.

"We've gone away to places like Harlequins, Leicester and Saracens and been competitive, and arguably should have come away with more.

"We're on a journey here, and Saturday gives us a chance to show people what we're all about."

Davies went on to praise Saturday's opponents and admits he's expecting a physical encounter.

"You have to give Saracens credit, they're a very efficient side. They know what they do, and they do it very well," he added. "We have to be on our mettle on Saturday. We have to be clear about what our game plan is.

"The real battle will be about the gain line both with and without the ball, and both teams will be looking to win that battle. It's going to be a physical encounter. They're doing tremendously well, domestically and in Europe.

"Their form this season says that they're one of the top teams in Europe right now. So, it's a huge challenge for us."

Meanwhile, Owen Farrell, Richard Wigglesworth, Steve Borthwick, Alistair Hargreaves, Will Fraser and Ernst Joubert all return to the starting Saracens line-up.

Chris Ashton, Kelly Brown and Brad Barritt are among those rested for the game.

Form: Gloucester must win to keep their hopes of appearing in the Aviva Premiership Rugby semi-finals alive, a stage they have reached just once since 2008. Gloucester's only defeat at Kingsholm in their last nine Premiership fixtures there was 12-18 to London Irish on 5th January. Saracens have already qualified for a fourth successive Premiership semi-final and have also ensured that this game will be played at home for the first time since 2011. Sarries have won their last six contests in the tournament, whilst their only defeat since round 9 coming at London Irish on 9th February. Saracens are unbeaten in their last five encounters with Gloucester, but just one of those matches has been played at Kingsholm. Sarries have only ever won twice at the famous old venue in competitive rugby, both in the Premiership, 14-13 in 2005 and 19-17 in 2011.

The teams:

Gloucester: 15 Rob Cook, 14 Charlie Sharples, 13 Henry Trinder, 12 Billy Twelvetrees, 11 Jonny May, 10 Freddie Burns, 9 Dan Robson, 8 Ben Morgan 7 Akapusi Qera, 6 Sione Kalamafoni, 5 Lua Lokotui, 4 Tom Savage (c), 3 Shaun Knight, 2 Koree Britton, 1 Nick Wood.
Replacements: 16 Tommaso d'Apice, 17 Dan Murphy, 18 Yann Thomas, 19 Peter Buxton, 20 Andy Hazell, 21 Dave Lewis, 22 Ryan Mills, 23 Martyn Thomas.

Saracens: 15 Alex Goode, 14 Chris Wyles, 13 Joel Tomkins, 12 Owen Farrell, 11 David Strettle, 10 Charlie Hodgson, 9 Richard Wigglesworth, 8 Ernst Joubert, 7 Will Fraser, 6 Jackson Wray, 5 Alistair Hargreaves, 4 Steve Borthwick (c), 3 Matt Stevens, 2 John Smit, 1 Rhys Gill.
Replacements: 16 Jamie George, 17 Mako Vunipola, 18 Carlos Nieto, 19 George Kruis, 20 Jacques Burger, 21 Ben Spencer, 22 Duncan Taylor, 23 Joe Maddock.

Date: Saturday, April 20
Kick-off: 15:00 BST
Venue: Kingsholm
Referee: JP Doyle
Assistant referees: Peter Huckle, Paul Burton
Timekeeper: Matthew Peters
Assessor: Nigel Yates

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