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Aviva Premiership - Round 13
Owen Farrell named at fly-half for Sarries
ESPN Staff
January 4, 2013

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England flanker Tom Croft will make his first appearance of the season after being included in Leicester Tigers' XV for their match with the Worcester Warriors at Sixways on Friday evening.

The 27-year-old has not played since damaging his neck in a tackle on Nick Easter during the Aviva Premiership clash with Harlequins in April. He was stretchered off the field and required surgery and has subsequently spent nearly nine months on the sidelines. But in a timely boost ahead of the 2013 Six Nations, Croft starts at blindside for the Tigers on Friday.

Croft's inclusion is one of twelve changes from the side that beat Gloucester last weekend. Croft links up with Steve Mafi and Thomas Waldrom in the back-row while Louis Deacon and Ed Slater start in the second-row. Logovi'i Mulipola and Martin Castrogiovanni pack down alongside Rob Hawkins in their front-row. In the backs, Toby Flood and Ben Youngs are reunited at half-back while Dan Bowden and Matt Smith get the nod in the centres. Adam Thompstone, Scott Hamilton and Mathew Tait form their back three.

And Worcester have also opted to ring the changes and have altered six from the team that lost to Sale last Friday evening. Wing Josh Drauniniu gets the nod while Jonny Arr starts at scrum-half in place of Paul Hodgson. Jon Clarke is named in the centres while Josh Matavesi is named 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. Lock Dean Schofield will join James Percival, who retains the captaincy, in the second row.

On Saturday, London Irish travel to Gloucester looking to bounce back from their loss to Harlequins last weekend. Ex-England centre Mike Tindall captains Gloucester while Tom Savage starts in their second-row in place of injured skipper Jim Hamilton. Rob Cook gets the nod at fullback while Dan Murphy starts instead of Nick Wood. And the Exiles will be boosted by the return of England prop Alex Corbisiero to their starting XV. He joins Halani Aulika and David Paice in the front row with George Skivington partnering Bryn Evans in the second row. Matt Garvey slots into the back-row alongside Jebb Sinclair and Chris Hala'ufia. Pat Phibbs starts at scrum-half and Steven Shingler and Sailosi Tagicakibau will form the centre combination with Jonathan Joseph moving to the wing.

Elsewhere on Saturday, the Exeter Chiefs host Northampton Saints at Sandy Park. Ben Moon starts at loose-head in place of the injured Brett Sturgess while Neil Clark is handed the hooker berth. Other changes to the pack see Tom Johnson and Ben White recalled into the back-row, whilst James Hanks steps up to partner Dean Mumm in the second-row. Behind the pack the solitary change sees Ian Whitten brought into the midfield in place of Jason Shoemark. And the Saints have swapped four from the team that lost to Saracens. Calum Clark returns at blindside in place of Tom Wood while Mark Sorensen starts in the second-row alongside Courtney Lawes. Soane Tonga'uiha and Paul Doran Jones line up alongside Dylan Hartley in the Saints' front-row.

And on Sunday, Saracens host the Sale Sharks in what will be their last game at Vicarage Road. Saracens have named England's Owen Farrell at fly-half for the clash while Steve Borthwick returns to captain the side from lock. Schalk Brits also returns at hooker, Richard Wigglesworth gets the nod at scrum half while James Short is named on the wing in place of the rested Chris Ashton. Sale have made just two changes from the team that beat Worcester last week with Tony Buckley and Andy Powell coming into the pack in place of Eifion Lewis Roberts and Dave Seymour respectively. New signing Daniel Braid is named on the bench.

Elsewhere, fifth-placed London Wasps welcome Bath to Adams Park. Wasps hand starts to Christian Wade, James Haskell and Stephen Jones while Elliot Daly shifts to outside centre. Their opponents Bath have changed three with Nick Abendanon, Stuart Hooper and Dominic Day all returning to their starting XV.

Table-toppers Harlequins are also in action on Sunday when they travel to the Kassam Stadium to play London Welsh. Exiles boss Lyn Jones has changed four from the team that lost to Wasps last weekend with Adam Balding, Paulica Ion, Tyson Keates and Tom Voyce all starting. And Quins have also rung the changes with Ollie Lindsay-Hague starting in place of Mike Brown while Jordan Turner-Hall and George Lowe form the centre partnership. The final change in the back line sees Sam Smith taking over from Ugo Monye on the left wing. In the forwards Charlie Matthews comes in for Olly Kohn in the second row while Tom Guest starts at blindside flanker in place of Maurie Fa'asavalu.

Tom Croft will start for Leicester on Friday © Getty Images
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