Preview: Gloucester v Bristol

There’s good news for England as Gloucester welcome back James Simpson-Daniel and Andy Hazell for Saturday’s crucial Guinness Premiership clash with Bristol at Ashton Gate.

Both men return to the XV having missed the 19-12 defeat at Newcastle a fortnight ago as Gloucester aim for top spot in the Guinness Premiership.

Hazell will require only four more tackles tomorrow to top 200 for the season and heads the Premiership tackle count – 14 ahead of team-mate Peter Buxton.

The openside flank will line-up alongside Buxton and James Forrester in Gloucester’s row.

Simpson-Daniel, meanwhile, will make his 15 Premiership appearance of the season and his first at outside-centre because of the injury to Mike Tindall. He will partner Anthony Allen in Gloucester’s backline that is reshuffled because of injury.

James Bailey, who is Gloucester’s leading Premiership try scorer with five, is ruled out with a groin injury which means Iain Balshaw switches to the wing and Willie Walker comes in at full-back.

Peter Richards starts at scrum-half and will partner Ryan Lamb at half-back.

“Tomorrow will be a history making occasion for Gloucester but the vibe about Ashton Gate is really, really positive and something we are all looking forward to,” said Gloucester boss Dean Ryan.

“It is a fantastic stadium, there will be more than 12,500 Gloucester supporters inside the ground and the atmosphere generated will be like Kingsholm on the road.

“There is a significant amount on this match for both teams. We were exceptionally disappointed with aspects of our defeat at Newcastle and I expect to see a reaction from that.

“When you look back at the last 12 months it is possible to see how far this group has come. I think it is testament to the squad we are building we are in this position and we now need to take that into knockout rugby.

“We are delighted to have both Andy Hazell and James Simpson-Daniel back in the side because they have experience of big, one-off matches and that is vital at this stage of the season.”

In the forwards, Ryan is able to name a settled line-up. Nick Wood, Olivier Azam and Carlos Nieto form the front row, while Alex Brown returns in the second row alongside skipper Marco Bortolami.

On the bench there are returns for Christian Califano, who broke his thumb against Northampton at the start of March and Jack Adams. Gloucester will make a decision tomorrow on their back row replacement between Jake Boer and Luke Narraway.

Meanwhile, Bristol boss Richard Hill has shown his determination to clinch a Guinness Premiership play-off place by recalling several big names to his XV.

Bristol went back into third place in the Premiership table following the 30-13 win over Leicester Tigers at Ashton Gate on Tuesday evening but, with the top four teams qualifying for the playoffs, Bristol are not safely into the post season just yet.

Saracens are just one place and one point behind Bristol and London Wasps are two places and three points back. The permutations are endless but even a bonus point may not be enough if Wasps were to go to Welford Road and take five points.

So, Hill names his strongest possible team with international half backs Shaun Perry and David Hill reunited and the Guinness Premiership’s top try scorer, David Lemi, back on the left wing.

Centre Neil Brew is the unlucky man who has to make way as he and Hill, both New Zealanders, cannot feature on the pitch at the same time. Brian Lima moves in from the left wing to outside centre.

“If my maths is correct, if we beat Gloucester, we can clinch a home play-off tie – that’s a big carrot for us.” said Hill.

“That’s a huge incentive for us. To be the home side in the play-offs would be a huge prize and anything could happen from there.

“We had some tired legs after Leicester but a win always freshens people up

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