Planet Rugby

Preview: Worcester v Leicester

14th November 2013 11:40

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James Percival Worcester Aviva Premiership

Returning: James Percival

James Percival will play his first match for over half a year when Worcester host Leicester Tigers in the LV= Cup on Friday.

The giant lock has been ruled out since the start of the season after undergoing a bicep operation but will return for his first taste of action under Director of Rugby Dean Ryan.

Andy Symons, who signed for the club last week, will make his full Warriors debut after coming off the bench during last Friday's victory over Cardiff Blues.

Mariano Galarza comes back into the side after being released by Argentina, while Leonardo Senatore moves in the other direction.

Ravai Fatiaki returns following a spell on the treatment table, while Paul Warwick and Jonny Arr are named as the half-back combination.

Chris Brooker will start at hooker as Warriors search for a second consecutive win against their Premiership opponents.

"We're not losing sight of the role the LV= Cup plays for us and everybody else and we've got another opportunity to go again this week," said Worcester boss Dean Ryan.

"I think it will be a big step up from last weekend. I'm sure Leicester will have a mix of youngsters and experience.

"Richard Cockerill has done a good job in the LV= Cup. He has always allowed his youngsters to play and stayed with them when they've been successful.

"It will be a good test for us to see the youngsters again in a different light against a tougher opposition."

Meanwhile, Matt Smith returns to make his first starting appearance of the season for Leicester Tigers at Sixways.

Cockerill gives a place at centre to Smith who broke a thumb in pre-season and made only a short appearance as a replacement in the league fixture against Harlequins a fortnight ago.

Sam Harrison is ruled out after taking a knock in the win over the Ospreys last Friday and his place at scrum-half is taken by David Mélé, while Jordan Crane returns at number eight.

Miles Benjamin faces his former club, and Henry Purdy, an England Under-20s international, comes in on the other wing with Blaine Scully on international duty with the USA.

French prop Jérôme Schuster is brought into the matchday squad for the first time since a switch from Perpignan.

Tigers got their LV= Cup campaign off to a good start at Welford Road last Friday with a bonus-point victory over the Ospreys with a squad featuring four debutants and three other players involved in a senior matchday at Welford Road for the first time.

"It was good to see the young lads step up and play well in a competitive first-team game. Some of those young guys are in the team this week and will have to step up again. There's a bit of experience with Boris, Jordan and Scotty Hamilton in there to hold it together," said Cockerill.

"Worcester will be a new challenge for this team. They won last week and will be looking to gain some momentum so it is down to our guys to back up last week's performance in a game away from home."

Five Leicester players are with England this weekend, and Marcos Ayerza and Pablo Matera are with Argentina.

Tigers are without Anthony Allen, Gonzalo Camacho, Tom Croft, Vereniki Goneva, Rob Hawkins, Terrence Hepetema, Ryan Lamb, Logovi'i Mulipola, Scott Steele, Mathew Tait and Manu Tuilagi due to injury.

The teams:

Worcester: 15 Ben Howard, 14 James Stephenson, 13 Max Stelling, 12 Andy Symons, 11 Ravai Fatiaki, 10 Paul Warwick, 9 Jonny Arr, 8 Jonathan Thomas (c), 7 Jake Abbott, 6 Sam Betty, 5 Mariano Galarza, 4 James Percival, 3 Rob O'Donnell, 2 Chris Brooker, 1 Ofa Fainga'anuku.
Replacements: 16 Ed Shervington, 17 Jeremy Becasseau, 18 Euan Murray, 19 Christian Scotland-Williamson, 20 Richard de Carpentier, 21 George de Cothi, 22 Ignacio Mieres, 23 Dean Hammond

Leicester Tigers: 15 Scott Hamilton, 14 Henry Purdy, 13 Matt Smith, 12 Javiah Pohe, 11 Miles Benjamin, 10 Owen Williams, 9 David Mélé, 8 Jordan Crane, 7 Jamie Gibson, 6 Michael Noone, 5 Sebastian de Chaves, 4 Joe Cain, 3 Fraser Balmain, 2 Harry Thacker, 1 Boris Stankovich (c).
Replacements: 16 Neil Briggs, 17 Tom Bristow, 18 Jérôme Schuster, 19 Tom Price, 20 Harry Wells, 21 George Tresidder, 22 Pasqualle Dunn, 23 Perry Humphreys.

Date: Friday, November 15
Kick-off: 19:45 GMT
Venue: Sixways Stadium
Referee: Gwyn Morris (Wales)
Assistant referees: Paul Burton (England), Gareth Copsey (England)
Timekeeper: Eric Bullion (England)
Assessor: Paul Bridgman (England)

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