Preview: London Welsh v Leicester

Date published: November 21 2014

London Welsh have made four changes for Sunday’s Premiership clash with Leicester at the Kassam Stadium, with Opeti Fonua starting.

London Welsh have made four changes for Sunday’s Premiership fixture with Leicester at the Kassam Stadium, with Opeti Fonua starting.

Fonua comes in for the injured Chris Hala’ufia while Ricky Reeves replaces the injured Pablo Henn at loosehead with Nathan Vella at hooker.

In the backs, Gordon Ross starts at fly-half with Will Robinson named amongst the replacements.

Ex-Bradford Bulls and Wales Rugby League wing Elliot Kear is named on the bench alongside Nathan Trevett, who is set to make his first competitive appearance of the season.

“Last Sunday hurt hugely; it certainly showed the step up to the Aviva Premiership. All credit to Wasps, they were consistent for the full 80 minutes, but the scoreline was unacceptable,” said London Welsh head coach Justin Burnell.

“London Welsh, though, is a remarkable place to work – you have to admire our players and the environment. The players were in on Monday, identifying the faults and working hard eradicate them, while as coaches we constantly keep looking for ways to improve.

“Our next three Premiership games are Leicester, Northampton and Saracens – arguably the three big sides. It doesn’t get much bigger than this – Leicester have consistently been one of the league’s big boys. We’ve got to front up; if we don’t it could be another horrendous day at the office.”

Meanwhile, Freddie Burns returns to the Leicester Tigers backline for Sunday’s game.

England international Burns starts at fly-half, with Tommy Bell coming in at full-back for his first league start for the club. Adam Thompstone returns on the wing in his first Aviva Premiership appearance of the season.

The forward pack features the same eight players who started against Saracens at Welford Road last Sunday, with Italy international back-rower Robert Barbieri and off-season signing Laurence Pearce added to the replacements.

Form: London Welsh have lost all eleven matches they have played this season, conceding over 45 points on eight occasions. The Exiles have won only one Premiership Rugby match since December 2012: 33-22 at home to Worcester in round 22 of the 2012/13 campaign. Leicester Tigers won their most recent away game, 17-16 at London Irish in the Anglo-Welsh Cup, but have now won on successive trips since March. In Aviva Premiership Rugby the Tigers have lost their last two away matches but have not lost three in a row on the road in the competition since October 2010. Leicester have won their last six matches against London Welsh since the Exiles 9-6 victory at Welford Road in a club fixture in September 1987. The Tigers were victorious 38-13 on their only previous visit to Kassam Stadium in September 2012.

The teams:

London Welsh: 15 Seb Jewell, 14 Seb Stegmann, 13 Nic Reynolds, 12 Tom May (c), 11 Nick Scott, 10 Gordon Ross, 9 Rob Lewis, 8 Opeti Fonua, 7 Lachlan McCaffrey, 6 Peter Browne, 5 James Down, 4 Matt Corker, 3 Taione Vea, 2 Nathan Vella, 1 Ricky Reeves.
Replacements: 16 Koree Britton, 17 Nathan Tevett, 18 Ben Cooper, 19 Dean Schofield, 20 Ben Pienaar, 21 Paul Rowley, 22 Will Robinson, 23 Elliot Kear.

Leicester: 15 Tommy Bell, 14 Blaine Scully, 13 Matt Smith, 12 Anthony Allen, 11 Adam Thompstone, 10 Freddie Burns, 9 David Mele, 8 Jordan Crane, 7 Julian Salvi, 6 Jamie Gibson, 5 Graham Kitchener, 4 Brad Thorn (c), 3 Dan Cole, 2 Harry Thacker, 1 Michele Rizzo.
Replacements: 16 Jake Farnworth, 17 Tom Bristow, 18 Fraser Balmain, 19 Robert Barbieri, 20 Laurence Pearce, 21 Sam Harrison, 22 Owen Williams, 23 Mathew Tait.

Date: Sunday, November 23
Kick-off: 15:15 GMT
Venue: Kassam Stadium
Referee: Dean Richards
Assistant referees: Gordon Goodliffe, Simon Mcconnell
Television match official: David Grashoff
Timekeeper: Roy Marfleet
Assessor: Gary Welsh