Gloucester forced into changes for Tigers

Guinness Premiership leaders Gloucester go into tomorrow’s top of the table clash against Leicester with a host of changes to their starting XV because of international call-ups and injuries.

There are six changes to the team that beat Wasps 18-17 in round 11 and since then Gloucester have also lost stand-off Ryan Lamb with a slight shoulder injury, Mike Tindall with a bruised liver and prop Christian Califano, who is ruled out with a groin injury.

It has meant head coach Dean Ryan has been forced into considerable re-organisation this week. His forward pack is not too badly affected and will consist of Nick Wood, hooker Olivier Azam and tight-head Jack Forster, who will make his first Premiership start of the season.

Skipper Peter Buxton will line-up at lock alongside Will James. It will be Buxton’s 10th appearance of the season in the second row and James will start his second successive match.

Injuries to Alex Brown (arm) and Marco Bortolami (eye socket) will rule them both out.

In the back row, Alasdair Strokosch comes in at number six for Luke Narraway, who is on international duty with England, Andy Hazell wears seven and Adam Balding has been recalled from his three-month loan at Leeds Tykes to play at number eight after Gareth Delve was called up by Wales.

“We want to create an environment here where players press for international recognition but that obviously has a direct knock-on to Gloucester,” said head coach Ryan. “That situation has been intensified because of injuries this week but this is nothing new to us and we have prepared the right way.

“One of the reasons we have made such a good start to the season is that we have not relied on any one individual to make a contribution – we have an excellent squad that will once again be tested this weekend.
“Leicester are an outstanding side and without doubt will present one of our biggest challenges of the season. We have faced our own challenges and will solely focus on getting our game right. For us, that is the most important thing.”

In the backs, Rory Lawson will partner Willie Walker at half-back. Walker won the man of the match award for his performance during Gloucester’s 30-17 victory at Welford Road earlier in the season and will be his third start in the 10 shirt.

In the centre, Anthony Allen returns and will partner Jack Adams, who has been on-loan at Moseley this season. He has made 17 senior appearances in all competitions since his debut in 2005-06 and has scored four tries.
His last appearance in the Premiership was May 2007 against Saracens.

The back three is made up of James Simpson-Daniel, Mark Foster – who will make his Premiership start of the season – and James Bailey at full-back.
“We have some young and exciting players desperate for an opportunity and that is great for us,” Ryan added. “There is some obvious reorganisation and we will see how we react to that.”
The bench is where Gloucester’s resources are stretched. Both hookers – Jeremy Paul and Andy Titterrell – are named alongside prop Alasdair Dickinson.

Jonathan Pendlebury, who is back after shoulder surgery, completes the forward options. The backs are made up of Wales scrum-half Gareth Cooper, centre Ali James and winger Charlie Sharples.

Sharples (18) is a member of Gloucester’s Academy set-up and after leaving Wycliffe College at 16 joined St Peter’s sixth form in the city. He was part of the side that won the Daily Mail Cup in 2006 and this season has scored four tries in 10 appearances for Moseley in Division One.

Last summer, he toured with England Under-18s to Australia and has been called up into the Under-20s squad this season but was not involved with the victory over Wales last Friday.
Akapusi Qera is still ruled out with a cut hand.


GLOUCESTER (v Leicester, tomorrow, 3pm)

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