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Aviva Premiership - Round 6
Ford and Youngs handed starts
ESPN Staff
October 5, 2012
Leicester's George Ford fends off Saracens' Charlie Hodgson, Leicester v Saracens, Aviva Premiership semi-final, Welford Road, Leicester, England, May 12, 2012
George Ford will start for the Tigers at fly-half against Sale © PA Photos
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Players/Officials: Richard Cockerill | George Ford | Ben Youngs
Tournaments/Tours: Aviva Premiership

Fly-half George Ford will make his first start of the season for Leicester Tigers against Sale Sharks on Friday night and he will be partnered by scrum-half Ben Youngs who makes his season bow having recovered from shoulder surgery.

Reports at the weekend suggested that Ford might have to look elsewhere for first-team action with England fly-half Toby Flood in front of him in the pecking order but Cockerill has opted to rotate his options against the Sharks who are without a win in their first five games.

Other changes see Manu Tuilagi returning to the starting XV after recovering from a shoulder injury and Richard Thorpe handed his debut in the back-row alongside Thomas Waldrom and Jordan Crane. And Tigers boss Cockerill is hopeful that his side will build on last weekend's performance against the Chiefs. "We've made a reasonable start to the season but it's important to keep that going and focus on our own game," he said. "We've got a good squad and all of the players will have their opportunities."

The Sharks have changed three from the side that lost to Bath last weekend with Richie Gray and Richie Vernon coming into the pack and Will Addison replacing the suspended Tom Brady on the wing. Out of favour fly-half Danny Cipriani will have to be content with a spot on the bench for the second weekend running with Nick Macleod starting at half-back.

"Our last home performance was unacceptable," said boss Bryan Redpath. "In some ways, we improved last weekend but still lost the game. We're against a formidable side in Leicester Tigers, so we've got to restore some pride and play with plenty of passion. Our challenge on Friday is to be at our best."

The action continues on Saturday with Harlequins travelling to Sandy Park to take on Exeter Chiefs hoping to bounce back from their first defeat of the season. Skipper Tom Hayes and James Scaysbrook are rested by the hosts with Australian international lock Dean Mumm set to make his debut with Gareth Steenson handed the No.10 jersey ahead of Ignacio Mieres. Quins make two changes from their reverse at the hands of Saracens with Karl Dickson starting ahead of Danny Care at scrum-half and Mark Lambert making his first start of the season at loose-head, with Joe Marler covering from the bench.

Meanwhile Gloucester and Bath will go head-to-head at Kingsholm. The Cherry and Whites make three changes with Henry Trinder, Huia Edmonds and Ben Morgan coming back into the starting line-up with All Blacks international Jimmy Cowan set to make his debut for the club off the bench. Stephen Donald reverts to fly-half for Bath in the absence of Racing Metro-bound Olly Barkley with Sam Vest filling the void at inside centre for his first start of the season. With club captain Stuart Hooper sidelined with a hamstring injury, Dominic Day partners former Gloucester lock Dave Attwood in the engine room.

The day's other game will see leaders Northampton play strugglers London Irish at the Madejski Stadium. George Skivington, Bryn Evans and Matt Garvey will all start for Irish while Steven Shingler starts at fullback replacing Tom Homer. "Last Friday's game against Wasps was just about our most complete performance of the season," commented Saints boss Jim Mallinder, "and we will be looking to build on that tomorrow."

On Sunday, Gavin Henson will make his first Premiership start for London Welsh when they entertain Saracens at the Kassam Stadium. Charlie Hodgson, David Strettle and James Short all return to the Saracens backline with Alex Goode, Brad Barritt and Chris Ashton among those rested on rotation, Strettle will make his first start of the season and Owen Farrell will switch to inside centre with Hodgson named at fly-half. In the forwards, John Smit starts at hooker with second row George Kruis and flanker Andy Saull both getting their first run outs of the season.

Elsewhere, London Wasps tackle Worcester Warriors at Adams Park with Dai Young hoping the hosts can score a valuable win. "Beating the top four sides home or away is always going to be difficult in this league but beating the teams outside of that and in and around you is very important at home," he said. "If you want to do anything in this league you have to win those so this is a big game for us."

Wasps fullback Hugh Southwell has recovered from the hand injury that has seen him miss two games while Stephen Jones takes the No.10 shirt, having been forced to miss the Northampton clash with a stomach bug, and Tom Varndell returning to the wing in the place of the injured James Bailey. Up front, Simon McIntyre replaces the suspended Tim Payne in the only change to the pack. Jon Clarke will make his first Premiership start for the Warriors in the only change to their starting line-up while former England scrum half Paul Hodgson could make his first appearance of the season off the bench after a summer move from London Irish.

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