Friday, 28 February 2014

Manu Returns

He's back.  After almost 5 months out of action with a torn pectoral muscle he's back.  Manu returns to make his second start of the season, ironically, against the same side he injured himself in November.  Tigers also welcome Tom Youngs back into the pack and a second league start for Argentinian tyro Pablo Matera.

3 unconvincing wins on the bounce against Worcester, Gloucester and Irish have left the Tigers season on life support.  Another win is the bare necessity and an improved performance surely needed to boost morale. 

Mat Tait looked back to effervescent and dangerous best at the Madejski, the Durham born full back will be keen to go one further this week.  His opposite number is younger brother Alex Tait.  The two have never faced each other in senior action.

Joining Tait and Tuilagi in the backline are international wingers US Eagle Blaine Scully and Flying Fijian Vereniki Goneva.  Goneva takes Adam Thompstone's spot on the wing to accommodate the returning Tuilagi. 

The inside backs are unchanged from last week as Youngs, Williams and Bowden look to take last week's performance as a base and push on again.

Tigers have an all international front row featuring Marcos Ayerza, Tom Youngs and Logovi'i Mulipola.  All three are fearsome scrummagers, dynamic carriers and aggressive tacklers.  Arguably Tigers greatest area of strength, the front rows are key to providing us a platform from which the backs can play.

New captain Ed Slater leads with club stalwart Louis Deacon in the engine room.  Jamie Gibson and Jordan Crane keep their places in the backrow whilst Julian Salvi makes way for Pablo Matera.  Matera has impressed in his chances so far and this game is his chance to lay down a marker for the rest of the season. 

Newcastle name two new names in their backline; international centre Gonzalo Tiesi was with Deano at Quins, Lee Smith tries Rugby for the second time after a short lived spell at Wasps.  Smith is a three time Super League Champion with Leeds and joins after a spell with Wakefield Trinity.  Scotch half backs Mike Blair and Phil Godman complete the backline with Noah Cato and Adam Powell.

In the forwards one name that leaps out is Rob Vickers.  Formerly a hooker, under John Wells expert eye he has been playing this season as a loosehead prop.  In his old position is ex-Gloucester and Irish front row Scott Lawson.  Former Tigers prop Kieran Brookes is at tighthead.  A disappointing two year spell at Tigers was scarred by a crushed foot, suffered away to Newcastle in 2011, but Brookes seems to be back close the form that saw Cockerill describe him as the best young tighthead in Europe.

Two more Scots for the lock partnership as Fraser McKenzie joins Scott Macleod.  They make an enterprising back five of the scrum will Andy Saull at openside and the particularly impressive duo of Will Welch and Mark Wilson.  Welch is a local boy and would surely be on the England radar were he at a top 4 club.

Sunday's referee will be Coventry's Greg Garner.  Garner has refereed Leicester 10 times with 7 victories to 3 defeats.  He has officiated 2 previous meetings between the sides in 2010 & 2012, both bonus point wins at Welford Road.

15 Mat Tait
14 Blaine Scully
13 Manu Tuilagi
12 Dan Bowden
11 Vereniki Goneva
10 Owen Williams
9 Ben Youngs
1 Marcos Ayerza
2 Tom Youngs
3 Logovi'i Mulipola
4 Louis Deacon
5 Ed Slater (c)
6 Jamie Gibson
7 Pablo Matera
8 Jordan Crane
16 Neil Briggs
17 Boris Stankovich
18 Fraser Balmain
19 Sebastian De Chaves
20 Thomas Waldrom
21 David Mele
22 Toby Flood
23 Adam Thompstone

15 Alex Tait
14 Noah Cato
13 Gonzalo Tiesi
12 Adam Powell
11 Lee Smith
10 Phil Godman
9 Mike Blair
1 Rob Vickers
2 Scott Lawson
3 Kieran Brookes
4 Scott MacLeod
5 Fraser McKenzie
6 Will Welch (c)
7 Andy Saull
8 Mark Wilson
16 George McGuigan
17 Gary Strain
18 Oliver Tomaszczyk
19 Sean Tomes
20 Chris York
21 Warren Fury
22 Joel Hodgson
23 Danny Barnes

Referee: Greg Garner
Touch Judges: Andy Watson, Gareth Copsey
TMO: Graham Hughes

Kick Off: 2PM, Sunday  2nd March
TV: BT Sport1HD, 1PM

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