Preview: Leicester v Gloucester

The two remaining Guinness Premiership teams boasting a 100 per cent record clash at Welford Road on Saturday, as Leicester host Gloucester for what is effectively a Twickenham Final rematch.

The Tigers breezed past their fellow pacesetters back in May with a performance that stunned their youthful opponents and ultimately saw them lift the Premiership crown.

However, one of these two heavyweights will lose their winning run in what is arguably the club game of the weekend.

Leicester acting head coach Richard Cockerill has received a welcome selection headache with the return of Geordan Murphy and Martin Castrogiovanni from World Cup duty.

“It is great to have Geordan and Castro back,” said Cockerill.

“I am sure they will both be given a fantastic welcome back by the supporters, they are very popular guys and they are both quality players.”

In other changes, Matt Cornwell is handed his first start of the season at centre, whilst Julian White and Frank Murphy return at tighthead and scrum-half respectively.

But despite these personnel plusses, Cockerill remains desperate not to allow the Tigers’ unblemished early-season start slip from their grasp against the Cherry and Whites.

“All of the guys who have been here for the first three games have done a tremendous job and we obviously want to keep that momentum, but this is a tough, tough game. Gloucester have had a great start to the season,” he added.

Gloucester head coach Dean Ryan has made two changes to his backline with Leon Lloyd starting on the wing in place of James Simpson-Daniel, who has picked up a hamstring injury. The other switch sees young fly-half Ryan Lamb rotated for Willie Walker.

“Ryan has been in excellent form for us and it was fantastic he was named as the Guinness Premiership’s player of the month for September because it recognised his huge talent and development,” said Ryan.

“But I have made it clear since the start of the season that the value in a nine month season is the strength of the squad, Willie is a great option for us and we want to see him in action. We have had this system in place since the start of the season – it is also applied to the forwards.”

The visitors are still without the services of injured duo Lesley Vainikolo and Iain Balshaw but can welcome back Welsh pair Gareth Cooper and Will James after their World Cup efforts.

“We have made a very encouraging start and so have Leicester so it has got all the makings of a very attractive game,” added Ryan.

“Players are coming back from World Cup duty and the important thing for us now is that they enhance what we have already achieved since the start of the season.

“Leicester have been massively depleted by World Cup commitments but as befits a club of their strength, have made a great start. We are all looking forward to this contest – Welford Road is a great place to play rugby, both teams are playing well and it should be a great occasion.”

Form: In a rerun of the Guinness Premiership final meeting, Welford Road will host the tie of the weekend on Saturday. Leicester’s domestic dominance of just one home defeat in 39 matches, coupled with Gloucester’s dismal record at the venue means the formbook is very much with the hosts. The visitors’ have only won once in a league match since January 1990; a 28-18 Premiership encounter in 2004.

Leicester: 15 Geordan Murphy, 14 Johne Murphy, 13 Ollie Smith, 12 Matt Cornwell, 11 Tom Varndell, 10 Andy Goode, 9 Frank Murphy, 8 Jordan Crane, 7 Luke Abraham, 6 Brett Deacon, 5 Marco Wentzel, 4 Louis Deacon (c), 3 Julian White, 2 Benjamin Kayser, 1 Boris Stankovich.
Replacements: 16 Mefin Davies, 17 Martin Castrogiovanni, 18 Richard Blaze, 19 Tom Croft, 20 Ben Youngs, 21 Paul Burke, 22 Ayoola Erinle.

Gloucester: 15 Olly Morgan, 14 Leon Lloyd, 13 Mike Tindall, 12 Anthony Allen, 1

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