Friday, 3 January 2014

Flood's 100 Up, but Williams retains No.10

Tigers name their strongest possible line up for the visit of long time rivals Bath to Welford Road.  

Let's make no bones about it; this is a crucial game.  Some people have been fooled into complacency by the stats from last week's programme that we are level pegging with last season.  It is true our record of wins, losses and tries from round 9 were tied.  

But after the equivalent fixtures last year we beat Worcester and went top.  This year we are 13 points from second place.  For some context after the atrocious start to the 2011/12 season, when we were denied so many of our player by the World Cup we made it to this stage of the season 10 points from a home semi final.

Since the play offs were introduced we have only once been this far from a home semi final after 11 rounds; that was 2003/4 when were only above Rotherham and Saracens in the table and saw Deano's departure not long after.

Northampton and Saracens have stolen a march on us in 2013.  It's time for Tigers to show their teeth and make 2014 our year again.

Toby Flood makes his 100th start for the club after recovering from a leg injury suffered away to Montpellier.  It is sad that such a historic start is his first since announcing he was jumping ship and giving up the Tigers captaincy to chase more cash.  By my records he is the first Tigers captain to leave for money.  Murphy, Corry, Johnson and Deano all retired in the role.

Interestingly Owen Williams retains the fly half jersey with Flood moving to inside centre for only the 3rd time in his century of starts.  Let's hope for better results than the two losses suffered to Cardiff and Ospreys in the other games.

Miles Benjamin returns on the wing in place of Adam Thompstone, Benjamin rewarded for his fine form and Thompstone punished for his poor attempted tackle on Mark Cueto last week.

In the pack Jordan Crane and Thomas Waldrom once again rotate at number 8 but the rest is unchanged.  Graham Kitchener returns to bench and is unlucky to miss out but in a power game on the smaller Welford Road pitch Louis Deacon's strengths cannot be excluded.

A welcome return to the Match day squad is hooker Rob Hawkins.  Hawkins has yet to feature in a match day squad this season after a shoulder injury in the summer and he will surely be highly motivated against his home town.

Bath have been in superb form this season with 11 wins in succession until they faced Northampton at the Garden's last weekend.

They name a strong team with former Tigers fly half George Ford in at 10.  Whilst Ford's status as the league's top scorer has more to do with Bath's tactics of kicking their penalties at goal rather than for territory he is in reasonably nick none the less.

He teams up with want away League star Kyle Eastmond and Jonathan Joseph in a talented but light weight mid-field.  The winger Matt Banahan more than compensates for any lack of bulk elsewhere; let's just hope he doesn't pole axe any of our players this year.

Also featuring is last year's red card shame flanker Francois Louw.  The RFU might have preferred to shame the touch judge into retiring by over turning his decision, with no evidence, but those of us on the terrace know that Louw's red card was fully deserved. 

A less extreme incident in the Millenium Stadium in November earned him a yellow card for South Africa so perhaps he has learned the tiniest of lessons. 

Referee J.P. Doyle hails from Dublin and joined the RFU's refereeing department after traveling to London for University.  He has refereed the Tigers 14 times previously with Leicester winning 11, losing 2 and drawing that memorable game against Saints earlier this season.  Doyle has a reputation of a more hands off referee which can lead to exciting but lower scoring games.

The game has been moved to a Sunday lunch time for BT Sports, the effect can be seen as tickets sold are expected to be under 23,000 for such a big game.  To make matter worse it will not even be on BT Sports 1 as that channel is showing, of all teams, Derby!  What a way to rub salt in the wound.

15 Mathew Tait
14 Niall Morris
13 Vereniki Goneva
12 Toby Flood (c)
11 Miles Benjamin
10 Owen Williams
9 Ben Youngs
1 Marcos Ayerza
2 Tom Youngs
3 Dan Cole
4 Louis Deacon
5 Ed Slater
6 Jamie Gibson
7 Julian Salvi
8 Jordan Crane

16 Rob Hawkins
17 Boris Stankovich
18 Fraser Balmain
19 Graham Kitchener
20 Thomas Waldrom
21 David Mélé
22 Scott Hamilton
23 Matt Smith

15 Nick Abendanon
14 Anthony Watson
13 Jonathan Joseph
12 Kyle Eastmond
11 Matt Banahan
10 George Ford
9 Peter Stringer
1 Paul James
2 Rob Webber
3 Anthony Perenise
4 Stuart Hooper ( c )
5 Dave Attwood
6 Matt Garvey
7 Francois Louw
8 Carl Fearns

16 Eusebio Guinazu
17 Nathan Catt
18 Juan Pablo Orlandi
19 Dominic Day
20 Leroy Houston
21 Martin Roberts
22 Ollie Devoto
23 Horacio Agulla

Leicester Kit:

Bath Kit:

Referee: J.P. Doyle
Touch Judges: Ashly Rowden & Gareth Copsey
TV: BT Sports 2 HD, Sunday 1PM (KO: 2PM)

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