Gloucester v Bristol
Two changes each for Gloucester and Bristol
November 21, 2008
Luke Narraway returns to the Gloucester back-row on Friday © Getty Images
Gloucester make two changes from the side that defeated Saracens at Vicarage Road last Sunday for the visit of Bristol to Kingsholm in the Premiership on Friday.
Luke Narraway will return at number eight for the first time since he pulled his hamstring on Heineken Cup duty against Cardiff in October and will replace Alasdair Strokosch, who is on international duty with Scotland. The other change comes on the wing where Matthew Watkins makes his first start since Gloucester's 39-23 win over Newcastle in September. He comes in for Lesley Vainikolo, who moves to the bench.
Gloucester have won six of their last seven matches in all competitions and come into tomorrow's derby following a 25-21 success at Saracens. "For such a significant game it is great to have someone of Luke's calibre back around the squad," said head coach Dean Ryan. "He is an international quality player and his enthusiasm will be very important.
"Against Saracens we looked more like the side we were last year and I think that was key. We had tried to build some protection around what we thought the new law variations would offer and although we didn't want to change the way we played, we probably lost sight of the things we are good at.
"Last week we made a conscious effort to get back to what we know and at the same time use some of that protection. For a good proportion of that game we managed it and now we have to build on it moving forward into this game.
"We are a creative side and we have seen an uplift in that - we now have to keep improving it and moving it forward. Bristol are a very competitive side and they will come to Kingsholm and get amongst it - you can be sure of that."
In the forwards, Ryan keeps faith with props Nick Wood and Jack Forster, while Olivier Azam starts at hooker for the eighth time this season. Will James and Alex Brown partner each other in the second row, while Peter Buxton, Apo Satala and Narraway complete the back row.
Dave Lewis continues his progression at scrum-half with his second successive start in a half-back partnership with Ryan Lamb, who landed 10 points last Sunday. Mike Tindall, who has featured in every game bar the away defeat to Sale, skippers the side from the centre alongside Anthony Allen, who made a try-scoring return last weekend. Watkins, Iain Balshaw and Olly Morgan complete Gloucester's line-up.
Bristol Rugby make just two changes to the side that beat Northampton last Sunday. Both changes are tactical as Luke Arscott returns at full back after successfully coming through his comeback match for the reserves following a finger injury.
Tight-head prop Darren Crompton, having built up his match fitness over the past few weeks, makes his first Premiership start of the season replacing Jason Hobson.
Head Coach Richard Hill admitted that last Sunday's victory over Northampton Premiership had been a real boost for the squad. "The players have been superb. They've always kept their faith in themselves and are highly motivated. But there's no doubt that there's been a huge sense of relief after last weekend's victory and has lifted the pressure off a lot of peoples shoulders.
"So, it's been a good week and always much better to talk about winning than losing and gives us a huge boost for a big local derby this Friday."
"Every game is a big game. It doesn't matter who you are or what you've done. If you're not playing well then this league is pretty unforgiving. You can find yourself down the bottom in no time at all.
"Gloucester are one of the best teams in the league and, in the past, when they've played well against us they've put a few points on the board.
"We've had some very close games at Kingsholm and we've been beaten handsomely. Gloucester will probably see this as a 5 pointer and we've got to go there and make sure that doesn't happen."
Gloucester: Olly Morgan; Iain Balshaw, Mike Tindall (capt), Anthony Allen, Matthew Watkins; Ryan Lamb, Dave Lewis; Nick Wood, Olivier Azam, Jack Forster, Will James, Alex Brown, Peter Buxton, Apo Satala, Luke Narraway.
Replacements: Scott Lawson, Dave Young, Adam Eustace, Andy Titterrell, Jordi Pasqualin, Olly Barkley, Lesley Vainikolo.
Bristol: Luke Arscott; Tom Arscott, Neil Brew, Ed Barnes, David Lemi; Adrian Jarvis, Graeme Beveridge; Alex Clarke, Mark Regan, Darren Crompton; Roy Winters, Robert Sidoli; Alfie To'oala, Joe El Abd (capt), Dan Ward-Smith
Replacements: Scott Linklater, Peter Bracken, Mariano Sambucetti, Iain Grieve, Shaun Perry, Luke Eves, Lee Robinson