Preview: Gloucester v Leicester Tigers

Date published: January 29 2016

After two weeks in European action, Gloucester return to Premiership action this weekend with the visit of Leicester Tigers to Kingsholm on Saturday.

The starting line-up to take on the Tigers features only seven of the side that took the field last weekend in Parma against Zebre.

Returning to the starting line-up are Charlie Sharples, Billy Twelvetrees and James Hook in the backs, with Twelvetrees captaining the side against his former club.

Meanwhile, returning to the pack are Paddy McAllister, Richard Hibbard, Tom Savage, Jeremy Thrush and Sione Kalamafoni.

After two wins in the Challenge Cup, securing a home quarter-final, David Humphreys told the local media this week that Gloucester are coming into Saturday's game in good physical shape having rotated the squad. However, he and the squad are prepared for a tough encounter against the Tigers.

"It's going to be a huge test for us. The last couple of weeks have almost been preparation for this, we've given some players some rest and some others some game time.

"So, we're in good shape going into what is going to be an incredibly tough run of games over the course of the next ten weeks, although we haven't been able to look much behind Leicester this weekend.

"They're a team who have been going well, they were obviously successful last year, finishing top four, and have added new attacking threat to their game with some new coaches and players.

"We've played fifteen games this season, we've only lost four times. So, we're in a good place statistically. What we've got to do is bring a consistency to our performance.

"It's going to be a challenge but, with the work that's been done and not being affected too much by Six Nations, we're in good shape going into that run of games."

Meanwhile, Peter Betham and Greg Bateman return to the starting line-up for Leicester Tigers.

Australia international Betham reclaims a starting berth after being included among the replacements in the Champions Cup match against Stade Français last Sunday, while hooker Bateman returns from injury to make his seventh appearance of the season.

Tommy Bell comes into the team at full-back, with Betham joining Telusa Veainu on the wings.

Gonzalo Camacho is included among the replacements alongside Jack Roberts who is included in the matchday 23 for the first time this season.

Ben Youngs and Dan Cole remain with the England squad preparing for the start of the Six Nations, and hooker Tom Youngs is serving a one-week ban.

Tigers director of rugby Richard Cockerill said: "This is the start of a key part of the season with clubs affected by having players away for the internationals. We've done pretty well in managing the squad to this point and the next eight weeks during the Six Nations will be very important in the format of the season." 

Form: The Cherry & Whites were the only side to conclude the pool phase of the European Challenge Cup winning all six games and are unbeaten at home in all competitions since November. But they've only beaten the Tigers – who currently sit second in the table – once in their last five meetings. Leicester Tigers only defeat in the last five rounds of Premiership Rugby came on a visit to Saracens on January 2. Tigers have lost their last two away games in all tournaments but have not lost three in a row on the road since October 2014.

The teams: 

Gloucester: 15 Steve McColl, 14 Charlie Sharples, 13 Billy Meakes, 12 Billy Twelvetrees (c), 11 David Halaifonua, 10 James Hook, 9 Willi Heinz, 8 Ben Morgan, 7 Jacob Rowan, 6 Sione Kalamafoni, 5 Jeremy Thrush, 4 Tom Savage, 3 Paul Doran-Jones, 2 Richard Hibbard, 1 Paddy McAllister
Replacements: 16 Darren Dawidiuk, 17 Nick Wood, 18 Nicky Thomas, 19 Mariano Galarza, 20 Matt Kvesic, 21 Greig Laidlaw, 22 Billy Burns, 23 Mark Atkinson

Leicester: 15 Tommy Bell, 14 Peter Betham, 13 Mathew Tait (c), 12 Matt Smith, 11 Telusa Veainu, 10 Freddie Burns. 9 Sam Harrison, 8 Lachlan McCaffrey, 7 Tom Croft, 6 Mike Fitzgerald, 5 Graham Kitchener, 4 Dom Barrow, 3 Fraser Balmain, 2 Greg Bateman, 1 Marcos Ayerza

Replacements: 16 Harry Thacker, 17 Riccardo Brugnara, 18 Logovi'i Mulipola, 19 Sebastian de Chaves, 20 Jordan Crane, 21 Jono Kitto, 22 Gonzalo Camacho, 23 Jack Roberts

Date: Saturday, January 30
Venue: Welford Road
Kick-off: 15:00 GMT
Referee: JP Doyle 
Assistant Referees: Ross Campbell, Nigel Carrick 
TMO: Graham Hughes