Friday, 6 September 2013

Welcome Home for Record Champ10ns

Champ10ns Leicester Tigers return to Premiership action this Sunday as they look to defend the title they won at Twickenham in May.

Louis Deacon leads Leicester into the new season in what will be his 250th appearance for the First XV.  Deacon made his debut exactly 13 years ago when he started alongside Martin Johnson against Rotherham at Welford Road on the 6th September 2000.  With Toby Flood out injured Deacon will captain the side.

Making their debuts for the club are half back pair Ryan Lamb and David Mele.  Lamb covers for the injured Flood whilst Mele starts as Ben Youngs eases back into action after this summer's Lions tour.

Niall Morris shifts from wing to full back as Mat Tait is again absent with injury; he is joined by Flying Fijian Vereniki Goneva and Adam Thompstone on the wings.  This back three has only played together twice before in wins against Exeter at home and Sale away.

In the centres we have another new combination as Anthony Allen moves to 13 to accommodate the skills of Dan Bowden at 12; Manu Tuilagi returns to the bench after missing pre-season with a shoulder injury.

I hope that the fans and the broadcasters take the make-shift nature of Tigers backline into account when they assess their performance this Sunday.  Missing our first choices at 9,10,13,15 and having our first choice 12 and 14 play in different positions is not a recipe for a cohesive backline display.

The forwards however are very settled with Deacon the only change from last year's Title winning pack.  Graham Kitchener misses out after summer surgery on a bone spur in his heel.  That means Mulipola is joined by Tom Youngs and Dan Cole in the front row whilst Lions hero Geoff Parling rounds out the tight five.

Jordan Crane, Julian Salvi and Tom Croft make a settled and hugely talented back row.

The replacements are new buy Neil Briggs; props Fraser Balmain and Boris Stankovich; lock Ed Slater who returns after summer surgery; Thomas "the tank" Waldrom who provides cover across the back row and fly half cover in Owen Williams, the cross code youth international.

Dean Ryan's first selection as Worcester coach has a very international flavour as they come to Welford Road with only 3 Englishmen in the side.  Full back Chris Pennell and lock Dean Schofield are former captains whilst Sam Betty at openside is the only other Englishman.

They are captained by Johnathan Thomas, the cocky utility forward signed this summer from the Ospreys after 67 Wales caps and a decade of service at the Liberty Stadium.  Some times Thomas can come across as a bit of a knob but his spunky attitude should really stiffen Worcester's resolve and his firm carrying will penetrate plenty of defences this year. 

Worcester also start a fresh pair of half backs as Samoan test scrum half Jeremy Su'a is joined by 6 cap Puma Ignacio Mieres.  Mieres is a summer signing from Exeter and previously had a spell in the Tigers Extras under Marcelo Loffreda.

Sunday's referee will be Luke Pearce from Plymouth.  Pearce refereed both games against London Irish last season, his only Tigers so far.   
Leicester Tigers
15 Niall Morris
14 Vereniki Goneva
13 Anthony Allen
12 Dan Bowden
11 Adam Thompstone
10 Ryan Lamb
9 David Mele
1 Logovi'i Mulipola
2 Tom Youngs
3 Dan Cole
4 Louis Deacon (c)
5 Geoff Parling
6 Tom Croft
7 Julian Salvi
8 Jordan Crane

16 Neil Briggs
17 Boris Stankovich
18 Fraser Balmain
19 Ed Slater
20 Thomas Waldrom
21 Ben Youngs
22 Owen Williams
23 Manu Tuilagi

15 Chris Pennell
14 Josh Drauniniu
13 Ravai Fatiaki
12 Josh Matavesi
11 David Lemi
10 Ignacio Mieres
9 Jeremy Su'a
1 Jeremy Becasseau
2 Ed Shervington
3 John Andress
4 Mike Williams
5 Dean Schofield
6 Jonathan Thomas (C)
7 Sam Betty
8 Semisi Taulava
16 Nick Seymour
17 Paul Andrew
18 Rob O'Donnell
19 Chris Jones
20 Jake Abbott
21 Paul Hodgson
22 Danny Gray
23 Jon Clarke

Leicester Strip:

Worcester Strip:

1 PM, BT Sport 1HD (KO 2PM)
Sky 413, Virgin 549, Freeview 58

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