London Irish v Leicester Tigers Premiership Preview

London Irish host Northampton Saints at the Madejski Stadium

Leicester Tigers have named a team to play in the Aviva Premiership season opener against London Irish and have included give league debuts to five summer signings.

Summer arrivals Peter Betham, Greg Bateman, Mike Williams, Mike Fitzgerald and Lachlan McCaffrey all run out for the first time in a competitive fixture for the club, with Australia international Betham and second-rower Fitzgerald starting an Aviva Premiership game for the first time in their careers.

Back-rower Opeti Fonua and young scrum-half Ben White are also looking to make their first Tigers appearance from the replacements.

Fonua is included in the squad after reporting back from international duty with Tonga in time to play a part in the Kings of the North victory against Sale Sharks last weekend.

Marcos Ayerza remains on World Cup duty with Argentina, while the other World Cup players have reported back to Welford Road and have been rested for this weekend

Mathew Tait leads the team in the absence of club captain Ed Slater

There is a timely return for Owen Williams who is recalled to the matchday squad for the first time since suffering a knee ligament injury in the Cup victory at Cardiff Blues in February.

Freddie Burns, though, is ruled out after an injury in the fixture against Sale Sharks last weekend was confirmed as a broken jaw. Director of rugby Richard Cockerill has confirmed that the injury is likely to sideline Burns for 6-8 weeks. Tommy Bell starts at fly-half.

London Irish have slipped up in round 1 of Aviva Premiership Rugby for the past four seasons. The Exiles were winless in their last three Premiership Rugby matches, losing at Bath and Gloucester but drawing 40-all at home to Wasp in round 22.

London Irish’s only defeat at Madejski Stadium in the tournament since last November came at the hands of Leicester Tigers, 6-12 in a try-less encounter in February.

Leicester Tigers have been victorious on the opening weekend for the past three seasons, beating London Welsh, Worcester and Newcastle respectively.

The Tigers won their last three regular season fixtures in Aviva Premiership Rugby before going out of the competition at the semi-final stage at Bath.

London Irish have beaten Leicester just once in any tournament since October 2009: 22-19 at Welford Road, in round 4 of Aviva Premiership Rugby last season, whilst the Tigers have won on their last six visits to Reading.

Meanwhile London Irish have named Halani Aulika to start at tighthead after finishing his Rugby World Cup campaign with Tonga.

The prop will start in the front row alongside Tom Court and David Paice with George Skivington captaining the side in the second row alongside new signing Matt Symons. Jebb Sinclair, Luke Narraway and Rob McCusker make up the back row.

Brendan McKibbin and Chris Noakes will start at scrum half and fly half respectively with Eoin Griffin and Tom Fowlie in the centre.

Topsy Ojo, Alex Lewington and Andrew Fenby are named in the back three.

Gerard Ellis, Tom Smallbone and Leo Halavatau are the front row replacements with Eoin Sheriff and David Sisi covering the second and back row. Scott Steele, Shane Geraghty and Fergus Mulchrone are the back replacements.

London Irish Head Coach, Tom Coventry said: “Selection for the first match of the season is always tough and this is no exception.”

“The players have trained and prepared well for this match and, after a long pre-season, cannot wait to get out and play in front of our home supporters. Leicester provide us with a significant challenge and we look forward to representing the Club and our supporters with pride.”

Match : London Irish v Leicester Tigers
Date : Sunday 18th October
Venue : Madejski Stadium,
Kick Off : 3.15pm
Live on: N.A
Match Officials
Referee :Matthew Carley (32nd Premiership game)
Assistant Referees: Ashley Rowden and Robin Goodliffe
TMO: Stuart Terheege.

Teams

London Irish

15. Andrew Fenby; 14. Alex Lewington; 13. Tom Fowlie; 12. Eoin Griffin; 11. Topsy Ojo ; 10. Chris Noakes; 9. Brendan McKibbin; 1. Tom Court ; 2. David Paice ; 3. Halani Aulika ; 4. George Skivington (Captain); 5. Matt Symons; 6. Jebb Sinclair ; 7. Luke Narraway ; 8. Rob McCusker

Replacements: 16. Gerard Ellis; 17. Tom Smallbone; 18. Leo Halavatau; 19. Eoin Sheriff; 20. David Sisi; 21. Scott Steele; 22. Shane Geraghty ; 23. Fergus Mulchrone

Leicester Tigers

15 Mathew Tait (c) , 14 Adam Thompstone , 13 Peter Betham , 12 Seremaia Bai , 11 Matt Smith , 10 Tommy Bell , 9 Sam Harrison , 1 Logovi’i Mulipola , 2 Greg Bateman , 3 Fraser Balmain , 4 Mike Williams , 5 Mike Fitzgerald , 6 Tom Croft , 7 Lachlan McCaffrey , 8 Laurence Pearce

Replacements : 16 Harry Thacker , 17 Riccardo Brugnara , 18 Tiziano Pasquali , 19 Sebastian de Chaves , 20 Opeti Fonua , 21 Ben White , 22 Owen Williams , 23 George Catchpole

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