Tigers and Falcons set for sell-out clash
September 18, 2009
Leicester lock Ben Kay has been handed a starting berth for his side's latest Premiership clash with Newcastle at Welford Road © Getty Images
Leicester Tigers play host to Newcastle Falcons at a sold-out Welford Road on Saturday in the pick of the latest round of Guinness Premiership action.
The Tigers will run out in front of a capacity 24,000 crowd for their first home game of the season following the opening of the new Caterpillar Stand - the latest stage of the re-development of the ground.
Tigers head coach Richard Cockerill retains the same backline that started the victory over Harlequins last weekend but he has made four changes in the forwards, with Mefin Davies, Ben Kay, Craig Newby and Brett Deacon given starting roles. Richard Blaze, George Chuter, Jordan Crane and Ben Woods are ruled out by injuries picked up last weekend.
"It is great to get back to Welford Road after starting the season with two tough away games," said Cockerill. "We won only five league games away from home last year and we have one to our credit already. Now we need to build on that.
"It is fantastic for the players to run out in front a 24,000 full house, but we have to retain our focus on the match itself. Welford Road is a special place for every one of us but, just like starting the season as defending champions, you still have to earn the right to win games, nothing gets handed to you on a plate."
Argentina international fullback Lucas Amorosino is named among the replacements alongside summer signings Joe Duffey, Robbie Harris and Geoff Parling while the Tigers remain restricted by a long injury list including Toby Flood, Sam Vesty, Dan Hipkiss, Alesana Tuilagi, Lewis Moody, Dan Cole and Boris Stankovich.
Falcons boss Steve Bates, whose side opened their season account with back-to-back draws against Leeds and Sale, has made three changes to his side for their latest clash.
Junior All Black centre Tane Tu'ipulotu returns to the midfield, after missing the opening two rounds of the campaign with a neck injury. Springbok Gcobani shifts from inside centre to the right wing as Rob Vickerman is given a chance to continue his fine early form at outside centre. Elsewhere in the side Hall Charlton starts at scrum-half as an elbow injury sidelines Micky Young, while Mark Sorenson is rotated into the second row for Tim Swinson.
Fly-half Jimmy Gopperth is named after recovering from an ankle injury sustained in last Sunday's draw with Sale, although the Kiwi will face a late fitness test on match-day to confirm his participation as Rob Miller stands by to slot in.
Speaking ahead of the match, Bates urged his side to dampen the spirits of the bumper home crowd. "Even in defeat last year I felt as if we went down to Welford Road and gave a creditable defensive performance, so whilst it is obviously a tough place to go it is not somewhere that holds any fear for us," said the former England scrum half.
"They've started with a narrow loss and a narrow win, neither of which was exactly flowing rugby, and they have a few injury concerns as well. It's a big day for them with opening the new stand there, and perhaps all of those things add up to put them under a little bit of pressure. We see this as a great opportunity to go and take them on at Welford Road, and we're going down there very much with that mindset."
Expecting a full-on test from the champions despite a number of key injuries, Bates said: "If you go down to Leicester with the impression that they're not a very capable side, then you're going to come unstuck in a big way.
"Despite all of their injuries they still have a squad packed with quality internationals, and they have some really strong runners in the back row as well as guys like Aaron Mauger coming back. If you give them any sort of space they can tear you to shreds, but whilst we are mindful of that fact we are also going down there with plenty of optimism and belief that we can get the win."
Leicester Tigers: Geordan Murphy (captain), Johne Murphy, Matt Smith, Anthony Allen, Scott Hamilton, Jeremy Staunton, Harry Ellis, Marcos Ayerza, Mefin Davies, Martin Castrogiovanni, Louis Deacon, Ben Kay, Tom Croft, Craig Newby, Brett Deacon
Replacements: Joe Duffey, Julian White, Robbie Harris, Geoff Parling, Ben Pienaar, Ben Youngs, Aaron Mauger, Lucas Amorosino
Newcastle Falcons: Alex Tait, Gcobani Bobo, Rob Vickerman, Tane Tu'ipulotu, Tom Biggs, Jimmy Gopperth, Hall Charlton, Jon Golding, Rob Vickers, Carl Hayman (captain), James Hudson, Mark Sorenson, Brent Wilson, Ed Williamson, Filipo Levi
Replacements: Matt Thompson, Micky Ward, Laurence Ovens, Tim Swinson, Adam Balding, Chris Pilgrim, Rob Miller, Charlie Amesbury