Preview: London Irish v Worcester

France flank Olivier Magne and Ireland wing Justin Bishop return to London Irish’s XV for Sunday’s Guinness Premiership clash with Worcester Warriors at the Madejski Stadium.

Bishop will be making his final home appearance for the club he has served for the past 17 years. Also making their farewells to the London Irish faithful will be two other long-serving players, Neal Hatley and Barry Everitt.

In all, eight full international players feature in the starting line-up of the London Irish team for the final home match of the season with Worcester Warriors on Sunday.

Bishop and Magne are the only changes to the starting line-up of the team that played against NEC Harlequins last weekend.

Mike Catt, Faan Rautenbach and Shane Geraghty continue to be unavailable for selection through injury, and Bob Casey retains the captain’s role in Catt’s absence.

“We will be going all out to win on Sunday afternoon not only to ensure we stay in sixth place in the league and enhance our hopes of qualification for any European competition that may emerge from the current discussions, but also to send off our departing players in style,” said Exiles boss Brian Smith.

“This will be the final opportunity for most of our supporters to say ‘thank you and goodbye’ to the players that are leaving us at the end of the season and I hope that as many as possible will come along to do so.”

“Each and every one of the players that are going has left his distinctive mark on this great club and we wish them well for the future.

“I’ve no doubt that John Brain and his team will be equally determined to come away with a result. They have the best possible motivation in their endeavour to hold on to their hard won Premiership status. The Warriors have shown their fighting qualities in recent weeks and I’m sure we will see more of them on Sunday afternoon.”

Meanwhile, Warriors coach John Brain has made seven changes to his starting line-up for the clash.

Gary Trueman makes his comeback at inside-centre to again join forces again with Samoa international Dale Rasmussen and Lee Best in named on the right wing in place of Aisea Havili.

Scrum-half Matt Powell returns after missing the narrow defeat to Bristol with an ankle injury and is reunited in the halfback pairing with James Brown who will face his former club.

The front row features two changes with Tony Windo handed a starting shirt at loosehead and Tongan powerhouse hooker Aleki Lutui a first Guinness Premiership start since New Year’s Day, and Will Bowley replaces the suspended Craig Gillies at lock and is joined by Richard Blaze.

Kai Horstmann and Drew Hickey have switched positions in the back row and will team up with skipper Pat Sanderson who is set to feature in his 150th Guinness Premiership match. England international Sanderson has so far made 37 appearances for Sale, 65 for Harlequins and 47 for Warriors.

“It is always tough to get an away win and they [London Irish] will be focussed on winning their last game at home, they will want to put on a good show in front of their support,” said Brain.

“But I’m confident we can perform well on the weekend and if we do that we will be in with a real chance of winning the game.”

Form: After a run of five successive wins in the Guinness Premiership, London Irish have now slipped to back to back defeats to Saracens and Harlequins. A win for Worcester would pile further pressure on Northampton at the foot of the Guinness Premiership table, defeat could see them swap places with the East Midlanders. The Warriors’ three wins on the road this season in the competition were at Saracens, Northampton and Sale. Worcester’s only previous win at Madejski Stadium came on 11 September 2005 with a 20-15 victory, whilst London Irish have won the last two encounters between the two. Pat Sanderson has made 149 Premiership appearances – 37 fo

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