Anglo-Welsh rivalries resume battle
November 9, 2012
Leicester Tigers will go into this season's competition as title holders © Getty Images
The battle for the 2012-13 Anglo-Welsh Cup will kick-off on Friday evening with holders the Leicester Tigers opening their campaign against Aviva Premiership rivals Saracens at Bedford Blues' Goldington Road ground.
The competition will see most sides chopping and changing from their usual first XV with the tournament being played while the majority of stars from the English and Welsh clubs are on international duty. It will give coaches the chance to tinker with their tactics and blood some youngsters who may have impressed in the A League. The Tigers won the tournament last year thanks to a 26-14 victory over East Midlands rivals the Northampton Saints and they will be looking to make it two from two this time around.
The tournament will give the winner a much-desired spot in next season's Heineken Cup, in whatever format the competition takes, and the Tigers have named a much-changed line-up from the one that faced Northampton on Saturday ahead of their match on Friday evening. Matt Cornwell is handed his first start since he re-joined the club while Andy Forsyth will make his first appearance of the season. Lucas Guillaume will make his senior debut along with Michael Noone. George Ford is on the bench and Mathew Tait will hope to get some game time from the replacements after an injury-ravaged 15 months.
Saracens have also opted to shuffle their pack with Nils Mordt captaining the side from fly-half. Only three players keep their place in the team from the one that faced Wasps on Sunday with Alastair Hargreaves, James Short and Andy Saull all starting. Jono Ross is in line to make his Saracens debut after being named at No.8 and there could be further debuts with Lorenzo Romano, Max Crumpton and Nick Tompkins named on the bench.
Elsewhere on Friday evening, the Cardiff Blues will entertain Wasps at the Arms Park. In a week where the Welsh region have admitted defeat in their bid to keep star centre Jamie Roberts at the Blues, their supporters will hope to see the team bounce back from their woeful form - having lost their last six games - and down former boss Dai Youngs' side.
They have retained 12 players who turned out in their loss to Munster with Owen Williams, Gareth Davies and Sam Hobbs coming into the team. And there is a chance that Thomas Young, who has been named on the bench, will get the opportunity to face his father's team if he gets the nod.
Their opponents Wasps have also embraced the spirit of the competition by naming a young side for their trip to Cardiff. Jonah Holmes, Sam Jones, Tinus Du Plessis and Phil Swainston are all starting for the first time this season while Lee Thomas and T Rhys Thomas are both named to start against their former club. On the bench Matt Everard, Will Taylor and Nathan Morris will form part of the match-day squad for the first time this season, while academy youngster Dave Hughes is in line for his first ever senior appearance.
And Friday's action is completed with Gloucester's trip to the Ospreys. Marc Thomas and Will Price will make their first start for the Welsh region while Sam Lewis will captain the side at openside. Matthew Morgan retains his spot at fly-half with the team showing eight changes from the one that beat Leinster at the weekend.
Gloucester have also opted to change around their starting XV with Drew Locke handed his debut in the centres. And elsewhere in the backs there are a number of first-teamers preparing to pull on the shirt with Martyn Thomas, Shane Monahan, Tim Molenaar, Tim Taylor and Dan Robson all starting. In the pack the experience of Peter Buxton and Matt Cox is partnered with younger players Elliott Stooke and Ross Moriarty.
Calum Clark skippers the Saints © Getty Images
On Saturday the action continues with Northampton Saints hosting Harlequins. The Saints were losing finalists last year and Calum Clark will captain the side against the Premiership league leaders. Coach Jim Mallinder has also named academy graduate centre Tom Stephenson in the XV and he will make his debut for the Saints. Quins have also shuffled their pack with Luke Wallace captaining the side and Dave Ward and Harry Sloan handed their first starts. Among the replacements, Jack Clifford, Jordan Burns, Louis Grimoldby and Miles Mantella will look to make their first senior appearances for the club.
Elsewhere Bath host the Dragons at the Recreation Ground. The home team have handed a debut to winger Semesa Rokoduguni while Brett Sharman will make his first start for the side. Ryan Caldwell is yet to play this season for the club due to injury but he has been named on the bench. Jevon Groves will captain the Dragons with Ross Wardle making his first competitive start on the wing.
The Scarlets are also in action on Saturday and will play Worcester at the ground that will host the final of this year's tournament - Sixways. Wing Nikki Walker will make his comeback from injury for Worcester while Jon Clarke also returns in the centres. Dean Schofield captains the team from the second row while new recruit Richard de Carpentier is named in the back row for his senior debut. The Scarlets welcome in South African tight-head Jacobie Adriaanse for the match with Gareth Maule skippering the team. And new Australian lock signing Jake Ball gets his first start for the region.
And on Sunday, London Irish will face fellow Premiership basement dwellers Sale at the Madejski Stadium. The Exiles have named a strong side for the game with two notable additions to their XV. England prop Alex Corbisiero makes his first start of the season while Shane Geraghty is picked in the XV for the first time since his summer switch from Brive. Sale have named Dwayne Peel as skipper and he will partner Danny Cipriani at half-back.
And the weekend's action is comes to completion at the Kassam Stadium. London Welsh entertain the Exeter Chiefs and Lyn Jones has recalled former Ospreys centre Sonny Parker. And Nick Runciman comes in for Tyson Keats at scrum half with Gordon Ross starting at fly half in place of Gavin Henson. In the forwards, Greg Bateman starts at tight-head in place of Paulica Ion and Daniel Browne is named at blindside flanker, with captain Jonathan Mills moving from blindside to the second row in place of Kirill Kulemin. And the Chiefs have opted to draft in some of their younger players with Jack Arnott, Luke Cowan-Dickie, Sam Hill, Jack Nowell and Henry Slade all recalled from their Championship clubs where they are dual-registered.
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
"Gentlemen, if you want to see the World Cup going south yet again, you are going the right way about it," John Taylor looks at the state of European rugby
The Heineken Cup proved once again just why it is the best domestic rugby competition in the world at the weekend and Monday Maul picks out some of the key talking points
The latest Week in Pictures brings you a selection of the best snaps from around the rugby world with scantily clad ladies, O'Driscoll and snow all featuring