Tindall to lead Gloucester against Tigers

Mike Tindall will lead Gloucester into their opening Guinness Premiership match of the 2008-9 season on Sunday aiming for their seventh successive first round victory.

Leicester Tigers will be the visitors to Kingsholm (4pm) for one of the biggest domestic fixtures in the calendar and Tindall will skipper an experienced and explosive line-up against last season’s beaten play-off finalists, who triumphed 26-25 against Gloucester on their way to Twickenham.

Head coach Dean Ryan has made four changes to the line-up that started Gloucester’s final pre-season warm-up game last Saturday – a 30-8 victory over Glasgow.

There are two alterations to the backline and two in the forward pack. James Simpson-Daniel, the Guinness Premiership player of the season last year, comes in on the wing for Iain Balshaw and Rory Lawson comes in at scrum-half for Gareth Cooper.

Up front, Marco Bortolami gets the nod over Alex Brown at lock and will partner Will James, while Alasdair Strokosch comes in on the openside flank for Andy Hazell.

“We have done all can to prepare for this game under the new regulations, have picked a side accordingly and we are ready,” said Gloucester’s head coach Dean Ryan. “We have made conscious moves about the way we are trying to operate and that will be fundamental to this block of first games.

“The next five or six could be surprising and my prediction is that we could see some strange things if we don’t get consistency in some key areas.

“But any Gloucester-Leicester fixture is massive, no matter what stage of the season it comes in. It’s a great opportunity for both sides, particularly after what happened last season, and it will be a great way to start the season.”

Gloucester’s front row will have a tried and trusted feel – Nick Wood will start at loose-head prop, Andy Titterrell at hooker and Carlos Nieto at tight-head.

Will James gets the chance alongside Bortolami at lock, while Peter Buxton starts at blindside, Alasdair Strokosch comes in at number seven, while England’s number eight Luke Narraway anchors the scrum.

Lawson resumes his half-back partnership with Ryan Lamb, while Tindall and Anthony Allen are the centre combination. Simpson-Daniel and Lesley Vainikolo, who both scored nine Guinness Premiership tries last season, are the wings. Olly Morgan completes the back three.

“We have a tremendous number of options available to us in terms of how we manipulate our style of play from both forwards and backs,” Ryan said.

“We understand and appreciate Leicester are very physical and hugely abrasive at the tackle situation so preservation of the ball will be key. It should be a fantastic contest and it is something we are all looking forward to.”

On the bench, Ryan has opted for a four-three forward split. Olivier Azam and Dave Young – who joined Gloucester from Leicester in the summer – are the front row options, Alex Brown will cover lock and Andy Hazell completes the options.

Cooper, Willie Walker and Matthew Watkins are the three-quarter options.

Gloucester (v Leicester, Sunday, 4pm): Olly Morgan, James Simpson-Daniel, Mike Tindall (capt), Anthony Allen, Lesley Vainikolo; Ryan Lamb, Rory Lawson; Nick Wood, Andy Titterrell, Carlos Nieto, Will James, Marco Bortolami, Peter Buxton, Alasdair Strokosch, Luke Narraway.

Reps: Olivier Azam, Dave Young, Alex Brown, Andy Hazell, Gareth Cooper, Willie Walker, Matthew Watkins.


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