Preview: Gloucester v Wasps

Date published: December 27 2014

Gloucester are boosted by the return from injury of number eight Gareth Evans for their Aviva Premiership meeting with Wasps on Sunday.

Mark Atkinson and Nick Wood step up from the replacements bench as the Cherry and Whites make three changes to their starting line-up.

Evans, who recently signed a new contract to remain at Kingsholm, returns after missing the Bath fixture and will start at number eight.

Wood has had two replacement outings since recovering from a virus and makes his first start for the Premiership club since mid November.

In the only other change, Atkinson replaces Henry Purdy in the Gloucester midfield.

Meanwhile, Ben Jacobs, who scored two tries in Wasps’ bonus-point win against Castres in their final game at Adams Park, returns to the centres in place of the injured Chris Bell (shoulder).

Tom Varndell and Christian Wade start on the wings, while Lorenzo Cittadini and Kearnan Myall also make the starting line-up.

Carlo Festuccia comes onto the bench at replacement hooker after two months out with an ankle injury.

“We know Gloucester will be hurting because they lost their last home game. I see a real hungry Gloucester team playing in front of a packed house again in a great place to play and a fantastic atmosphere,” said boss Dai Young.

“They don’t lose on a regular basis there, so we know we’ve got to back up last week. We still need that 80 minute performance, because quite frankly last weekend was only a 40-minute performance. It was a bit messy for 40, then outstanding for 40. So we really need that 80-minute performance down there.

“They’ve got a good pack with a very good set-piece, then they’ve got bags of pace behind. They are as dangerous as anybody in broken play and we expect them to play with a lot of width.”

Young also appreciates the significance of the next month:

“We’ve wrapped this period up as a big phase really, with the games over Christmas and the two European games. We know this period will shape our season moving forward, and we’ve just got to try to put up as many victories in the league as possible,” he added.

“Certainly going into the last six weeks of the season we want to be in the position when it’s in our hands. You don’t want to be relying on other people and other results.

“We’re roughly where we want to be at this point lying sixth in the table, but it’s very, very tight. Two wins and you can be knocking on the top four, but two defeats and you can be staring at the trap door. We’re in a good position at the minute, so we’ve just got to keep moving things forward.”

Form: Gloucester’s home defeat to Bath on Saturday in Aviva Premiership Rugby ended a three game winning run in all tournaments. Gloucester have lost three of their last four Premiership Rugby encounters at Kingsholm, the victory being over Leicester in round 5. Wasps have won their last three matches in all tournaments and have not won four in a row since the turn of the New Year. Wasps record in Aviva Premiership Rugby this season is an unusual five wins from five at home and five losses from five away. Wasps have won four of their last five encounters with Gloucester in Premiership Rugby, but their only victory in their last five visits to Kingsholm in all tournaments was 32-30 in round 7 of last season’s Aviva Premiership Rugby.

The teams:

Gloucester: 15 Steve McColl; 14 Charlie Sharples, 13 Mark Atkinson, 12 Billy Twelvetrees (c), 11 Jonny May, 10 James Hook, 9 Greig Laidlaw, 8 Gareth Evans, 7 Matt Kvesic, 6 Sione Kalamafoni, 5 Tom Palmer, 4 Tom Savage, 3 John Afoa, 2 Richard Hibbard, 1 Nick Wood.
Replacements: 16 Darren Dawidiuk, 17 Yann Thomas, 18 Shaun Knight, 19 James Hudson, 20 Ross Moriarty, 21 Dan Robson, 22 Billy Burns, 23 Henry Purdy.

Wasps: 15 Andrea Masi, 14 Christian Wade, 13 Elliot Daly, 12 Ben Jacobs, 11 Tom Varndell, 10 Andy Goode, 9 Joe Simpson, 8 Nathan Hughes, 7 James Haskell (c), 6 Ashley Johnson, 5 Kearnan Myall, 4 James Gaskell, 3 Lorenzo Cittadini, 2 Edd Shervington, 1 Matt Mullan.
Replacements: 16 Carlo Festuccia, 17 Simon McIntyre, 18 Jake Cooper-Woolley, 19 Bradley Davies, 20 Sam Jones, 21 Charlie Davies, 22 Alex Lozowski, 23 Rob Miller.

Date: Sunday, December 28
Kick-off: 14:30 GMT
Venue: Kingsholm
Referee: Dean Richards (76th Premiership game)
Assistant Referees: Gareth Copsey and Andy Watson
TMO: Graham Hughes