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Worcester v Leicester Tigers Premiership Preview

Worcester Warriors host Leicester Tigers at the Sixways Stadium on Friday

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Article Published: Thursday 3 January 2013

Leicester Tigers have named Tom Croft for the first time this season in their starting line up to face Worcester Warriors at Sixways Stadium on Friday.

Back-rower Croft returns after recovery from a neck injury suffered last season and joins fit-again Steve Mafi and Thomas Waldrom in the Tigers back row for the opening Aviva Premiership fixture of the new year at Sixways.

Rob Hawkins is joined by Logovi'i Mulipola and Martin Castrogiovanni in the front row.

Mathew Tait returns at full-back, and there are starting places for Scott Hamilton, Matt Smith and Dan Bowden in the backline, with Toby Flood and Ben Youngs at half-back.

Warriors expect to welcome their biggest crowd of the season so far for Friday's fixture as they defend an unbeaten home record stretching back to September.

Worcester Warriors last nine games in Aviva Premiership Rugby have all been won by the home side on the day.

The Warriors are unbeaten in their last eight encounters at Sixways in all competitions since Bath won there, 24-23, on 1 September.

Leicester Tigers have strung together five successive victories in all competitions since their 12-14 reversal at London Wasps in the Premiership on 25 November.

The Tigers are the second best away side in the Premiership after Saracens, securing 18 league points from their six away trips so far.

The Tigers have won on their last four visits to Sixways including winning the Anglo-Welsh Cup there against Northampton in March.

Worcester's only win over Leicester since 2005 remains the 23-19 victory at Sixways in the Premiership on 8 March 2006 so head coach Richard Hill has made six changes to his starting line up that lost to Sale Sharks including naming wing Josh Drauniniu in the side for the first time since November.

Scrum half Jonny Arr will partner Andy Goode at half back, with former England international Paul Hodgson ruled out of the game with a jaw injury.

Centre Jon Clarke is also named in the back division with Josh Matavesi among the replacements.

Three changes in the pack see a return for hooker Aleki Lutui while Sam Betty plays in the back row alongside Matt Kvesic and Semisi Taulava. Ex-Ireland ace Neil Best is named on the bench and could make his 50th appearance for Warriors if he features.

Lock Dean Schofield will join James Percival, who retains the captaincy, in the second row.

Fit-again prop Matt Mullan is recalled to the bench alongside scrum half Ollie Frost.

Hill said: "There are a number of changes to the starting line-up as we look to keep the squad fresh after a run of bruising encounters.

"There were a number of battered and bruised bodies after the game at Sale and it is vital the team that starts is in the best physical shape for such a crucial game.

"Paul Hodgson misses out after picking up a jaw injury, but I know Jonny Arr will be keen to grasp this opportunity. We also call-up Aleki Lutui, Dean Schofield, Sam Betty, Jon Clarke and Josh Drauniniu and they will be determined to take advantage of this chance to shine.

"We have a real sense of pride when playing in front of our fans at Sixways, but this will undoubtedly be our toughest challenge yet," added Hill.

"If we want to keep our home record intact we have got to pull out all the stops and raise the bar once more against Leicester Tigers."

Match : Worcester Warriors v Leicester Tigers
Date : Friday 4th January
Venue : Sixways,
Kick Off : 8pm
Live on: ESPN HD
Match Officials
: JP Doyle (53rd Premiership game)
Assistant Referees: Andrew Pearce, Peter Huckle
TMO: Trevor Fisher.


Worcester Warriors

15 Chris Pennell , 14 Josh Drauniniu , 13 Alex Grove , 12 Jon Clarke , 11 David Lemi , 10 Andy Goode , 9 Jonny Arr , 8 Semisi Taulava , 7 Matt Kvesic , 6 Sam Betty, 5 Dean Schofield , 4 James Percival (c) , 3 Euan Murray , 2 Aleki Lutui ,1 Ceri Jones

Replacements :16 Ed Shervington , 17 Matt Mullan , 18 John Andress , 19 Chris Jones , 20 Neil Best , 21 Ollie Frost , 22 Danny Gray , 23 Josh Matavesi

Leicester Tigers

15 Mathew Tait , 14 Scott Hamilton , 13 Matt Smith , 12 Dan Bowden , 11 Adam Thompstone , 10 Toby Flood , 9 Ben Youngs , 1 Logovi'i Mulipola , 2 Rob Hawkins , 3 Martin Castrogiovanni , 4 Louis Deacon (c) , 5 Ed Slater , 6 Tom Croft , 7 Steve Mafi , 8 Thomas Waldrom

Replacements , 16 George Chuter , 17 Marcos Ayerza , 18 Dan Cole , 19 Graham Kitchener , 20 Julian Salvi , 21 Micky Young , 22 Anthony Allen , 23 Niall Morris

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