Gloucester eye redemption at Sixways
March 19, 2010
Can Gloucester fly-half Nick Robinson secure his second Anglo-Welsh title? © Getty Images
Northampton Saints and Gloucester go head-to-head in the final of the Anglo-Welsh Cup at Sixways on Sunday, with the Cherry and Whites out to provide a happy ending for their fans after Twickenham misery last season.
Last weekend's semi-final victory over Cardiff ended Welsh interest in the tournament and went some way towards erasing the memory of a 50-12 hammering at the hands of the Blues in the 2009 final, but they face an uphill task against a Saints side eyeing another piece of silverware since landing last season's European Challenge Cup.
Nick Robinson will marshal the Gloucester backline at fly-half after inspiring their downfall while a Cardiff player last season, with Rory Lawson named at scrum-half after being released by Scotland.
In the centre, Tim Molenaar is drafted in as Mike Tindall has been recalled by England. There are further changes in the pack as Pierre Capdevielle deputises for the injured Paul Doran-Jones and Adam Eustace slots in at No.8 in place of Jake Boer.
The Saints are unbeaten in the tournament but have been hit hard by the England camp's recognition of Ben Foden and Chris Ashton's form. Both players start their country's showdown against France in Paris, but Northampton have benefited from the return of Courtney Lawes from international duty.
Lawes slots into the second-row alongside the Bulls-bound Juandre Kruger, allowing Phil Dowson to start at blindside and Roger Wilson at No.8. Neil Best completes the back-row. Shane Geraghty starts at fullback in place of Foden, with Bruce Reihana and Paul Diggin, who will play his 100th Saints game, on the wings. Stephen Myler and Lee Dickson are named at halfback.
"We've won all our games so far and we want to go one step further in Sunday," Saints director of rugby Jim Mallinder said. "We want to do our best and win every game, regardless of the competition and we don't pick and choose. We've entered this competition and we want to lift the silverware.
"We've got to a final and have been putting all our emphasis and focus on a Gloucester team that will be very dangerous. They are playing a good style of rugby and have plenty of players who have come back into form over the past few weeks."
Northampton: Shane Geraghty; Bruce Reihana, Jon Clarke, James Downey, Paul Diggin; Stephen Myler, Lee Dickson; Soane Tonga'uiha, Brett Sharman, Brian Mujati, Courtney Lawes, Juandre Kruger, Phil Dowson (capt), Neil Best, Roger Wilson
Replacements: Andy Long, Regardt Dreyer, Jon Vickers, Mark Hopley, Mark Easter, Alan Dickens, Barry Everitt, Joe Ansbro
Gloucester: Freddie Burns; James Simpson-Daniel, Tim Molenaar, Eliota Fuimaono-Sapolu, Lesley Vainikolo; Nicky Robinson, Rory Lawson; Nick Wood, Olivier Azam, Pierre Capdevielle, Will James, Alex Brown, Peter Buxton (capt), Akapusi Qera, Adam Eustace
Replacements: Darren Dawidiuk, Yann Thomas, Rupert Harden, Apo Satala, Andy Hazell, Dave Lewis, Tom Voyce, Charlie Sharples
Hugh Godwin talks to France Sevens coach Frederic Pomarel about the controversial Olympics loophole that could lead to Steffon Armitage playing for Les Bleus
"If England flounder in the next World Cup the knives will be out - six-year contract or not." Tom Hamilton on the new contract for the England coaches
The All Blacks face their toughest task of the Rugby Championship at Ellis Park this weekend, writes Craig Dowd
With the deadline for World Cup ticket applications now over, Tom May outlines his hopes, gripes and wishes for next year's global gathering