Gloucester v London Irish, Aviva Premiership, February 18
Gloucester out to cement top four spot
February 17, 2011
Gloucester's Tom Voyce discusses their strong home form%]
Gloucester are out to cement their place in the top four of the Aviva Premiership when they welcome London Irish to Kingsholm on Friday night.
The Cherry and Whites climbed into the play-off places last week with a narrow 10-9 victory over Wasps at Adams Park but they are unlikely to get things all their own way against an Irish side that snapped a six-game Premiership losing streak with a 23-14 win against Newcastle.
Gloucester - Player to Watch: Captain Luke Narraway was a pivotal figure against Wasps - steering his side to only their second win in 13 visits. Another gritty and controlled display will be the order of the day.
Gloucester - Team News: Nicky Robinson retains the No.10 shirt having seen his citing for a dangerous tackle during the recent Anglo-Welsh Cup clash with the Exiles dismissed. But they will be without prolific winger James Simpson-Daniel after he picked up an ankle injury last weekend. Rory Lawson and Scott Lawson are both back from Scotland duty, while Olly Morgan returns from injury. Charlie Sharples moves from fullback to wing to accommodate Morgan. Meanwhile, the two Lawsons replace Dave Lewis and Darren Dawidiuk at scrum-half and hooker respectively.
London Irish - Player to Watch: Fullback Topsy Ojo looked lively against the Falcons last time out and is currently the Premiership's leading try scorer with seven. If the Exiles are to upset the odds the Exiles speedster will need to be in top form.
London Irish - Team News: Tom Homer returns to the London Irish side for the first time in three and a half months after recovering from an ankle injury. Homer comes in on the wing to replace Sailosi Tagicakibau, who injured his arm in last week's victory over Newcastle. Darren Allinson starts at scrum-half, Chris Malone steps in at fly-half and Faan Rautenbach comes back into the front-row. Recent England debutant Alex Corbisiero is named on the bench.
Key Battle: In a break from the norm, this contest could come down to a mental battle. Do Gloucester really believe they are a top four side? Or can London Irish rediscover the form that put them on course for the post-season a few months ago?
Trivia: London Irish boast internationals from eight Test playing nations within their squad - England, Ireland, New Zealand, Tonga, Romania, Argentina, Samoa and South Africa.
Stats: Gloucester have outscored London Irish eight tries to three in their two previous meetings this season.
"Irish know they didn't perform against us [in the Anglo-Welsh] and will be here to prove a point. We did perform well and it is up to us to back that up." - Gloucester boss Bryan Redpath
"Last Saturday's win against Newcastle was a step in the right direction...The league is very close this year and a win this weekend keeps us right in the mix for a play-off position come the end of the season." - Irish head coach Toby Booth
Fantasy: Gloucester's Charlie Sharples bagged a brace against the Exiles earlier this month and will fancy his chances of crossing the whitewash again. Should he be in your ESPNscrum's Fantasy Rugby Game team?
Prediction: Gloucester have won all six of their Premiership games at Kingsholm this season and their recent dominance of the Exiles should ensure they are in seventh heaven come Friday night.
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