Preview: Leicester Tigers v Gloucester

Date published: February 10 2017

Ed Slater hits a Premiership landmark with his 100th league appearance for Leicester Tigers in Saturday's home game against Gloucester.

Second-rower Slater joined the club in 2010, making his Tigers debut in the opening-day fixture against Northampton Saints, and served as club captain for two seasons up to 2016.

Michele Rizzo starts his first Premiership fixture of the season and he is joined in the front row by club captain Tom Youngs and South Africa international Pat Cilliers.

Brendon O'Connor made his return from injury as a replacement in the Anglo-Welsh Cup match at Saracens last week and starts in the back row alongside Mike Fitzgerald and Luke Hamilton.

The replacements include internationals Maxime Mermoz and Ellis Genge, plus England squad member Mike Williams and Wales squad man Owen Williams.

Meanwhile, after two weeks of Anglo-Welsh Cup action, Gloucester have rung the changes and have named almost a completely new starting XV.

Only six players, with just Sione Kalamafoni keeping his place in the starting line-up, are retained from the matchday 23 that defeated Newport Gwent Dragons last weekend.

Henry Purdy was an unused replacement against the Dragons, while Motu Matu'u, Yann Thomas, Salesi Ma'afu and Callum Braley started last week but are named as replacements.

The Cherry and Whites are without Greig Laidlaw, Jonny May and Ross Moriarty who are on Six Nations duty but Matt Scott has been released by Scotland and is named amongst the replacements.

Gloucester will travel to Welford Road on the back of a five-game unbeaten run, and looking to close the gap on the Tigers who are three places and just three points ahead of them in the Premiership table.

Leicester have lost their last three Premiership outings, and suffered a couple of setbacks in Europe. However, Gloucester's Director of Rugby, David Humphreys, insists that results don't always tell the whole story.

"We know what a good team they are. They've had a couple of difficult weeks in Europe. But, actually if you analyse the games, it wasn't as if they played badly. The teams they played against, Munster and Glasgow, were outstanding.

"We're well aware of the threats that they pose, the quality that they have. For us it's about taking the little bit of momentum, the confidence we've had from the past few weeks and prior to that performing in the Premiership, and taking that into this weekend.

"The squad are in good spirits, everybody's confident, there's a lot of belief. We're also well aware of the challenge that is going to Welford Road and the lack of success that we've had there in the recent past.

"That's part of going there. We want to create our own little piece of history this year and be the first team in the last few years to win there.”

Form: Leicester Tigers have lost their last three Premiership matches and have not been defeated four times in a row in the tournament since 2003. The Tigers lost their most recent home games in the tournament to Saracens and have not slipped to successive defeats in Premiership Rugby at Welford Road since October 2011. Gloucester beat Worcester Warriors 55-19 at Kingsholm in round 13 – their highest total in the competition since 2011. Gloucester’s only away victory in Premiership this season came at Sale in round 3, although they have obtained two draws – at Worcester in round 2 and at Exeter in round 6. Leicester’s only defeat to Gloucester in their last eight encounters was 16-33 at Kingsholm in October 2014 whilst Gloucester’s most recent success at Welford Road was 30-17 on 6 October 2007.

The teams:

Leicester Tigers: 15 Mathew Tait, 14 Adam Thompstone, 13 Jack Roberts, 12 Matt Smith, 11 Tom Brady, 10 Freddie Burns, 9 Jono Kitto, 8 Luke Hamilton, 7 Brendon O'Connor, 6 Mike Fitzgerald, 5 Dom Barrow, 4 Ed Slater, 3 Pat Cilliers, 2 Tom Youngs (c), 1 Michele Rizzo
Replacements: 16 George McGuigan, 17 Ellis Genge, 18 Greg Bateman, 19 Mike Williams, 20 Harry Thacker, 21 Sam Harrison, 22 Owen Williams, 23 Maxime Mermoz 

Gloucester: 15 Tom Marshall, 14 Charlie Sharples, 13 Andy Symons, 12 Billy Twelvetrees, 11 Henry Purdy, 10 Billy Burns, 9 Willi Heinz (c), 8 Sione Kalamafoni, 7 Jacob Rowan, 6 Lewis Ludlow, 5 Jeremy Thrush, 4 Tom Savage, 3 John Afoa, 2 Richard Hibbard, 1 Josh Hohneck
Replacements: 16 Motu Matu'u, 17 Yann Thomas, 18 Salesi Ma'afu, 19 Mariano Galarza, 20 Matt Kvesic, 21 Callum Braley, 22 James Hook, 23 Matt Scott

Date: Saturday, February 11
Venue: Welford Road
Kick-off: 17:00 GMT
Referee: Ian Tempest
Assistant Referees: Dean Richards, Simon McConnell
TMO: Graham Hughes