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Preview – Scarlets v Tigers

By John Evely

The Tigers travel to Parc y Scarlets in the Heineken Cup in what has become a must win game.

Top the Aviva premiership Tigers face second in the Magners League Scarlets in a game which looks certain to decide who finishes top of pool five in the Heineken Cup and so who automatically will progress through to the quarter finals.

Leicester make only two changes from the side that impressively beat the Northampton Saints 27-16 last weekend. Scott Hamilton returns from getting married in New Zealand in perfect time to replace the injured Geordan Murphy who broke a bone in his foot in the brutal encounter against the Saints.

The other change to the squad is the welcome of Boris Stankovich who claims a place on the bench having recovered from a broken eye socket. His added scrummaging ability could prove to be vital in south Wales with the Scarlets still suffering from a number of key injuries to their own front row.

The home side name Wales and British Lions fly half, Stephen Jones, at ten for the first time in a month after the veteran player recovered from knee ligament damage.

The Scarlets were on the end of a 46-10 thrashing at Welford Road earlier in the competition but will now be a stronger and more dangerous side with Jonathan Davies looking back to his best in the centres after missing the first game through injury.

Once again Manu Tuilagi, who has just been named in the England U20 squad, will be vital to the Tigers success. His and centre partner, Anthony Allen’s midfield duel with Regan King and Davies will be a fascinating matchup between four of the best centres in the game.

Leicester’s back row, with the likes of Aviva Premiership player of the month, Thomas Waldrom, on paper have the edge over their Welsh rivals. The combination of the kiwi at blind side flanker and Jordan Crane at number eights gives the Tigers unrivaled ball carrying players. Craig Newby at open side flanker has also been one of the hidden stars of Leicester this season, playing so well that the absence of England captain Lewis Moody has hardly been felt.

The Scarlets are a good side, in fine form, who on their day can play some of the most exhilarating attacking rugby in northern hemisphere club rugby but Leicester have stated that the Heineken Cup is their main focus this season. The power of the Leicester team, if used affectively could prove too much in this fascinating fixture.

Leicester Tigers
15 Scott Hamilton
14 Matt Smith
13 Manu Tuilagi
12 Anthony Allen
11 Alesana Tuilagi
10 Toby Flood
9 Ben Youngs
1 Marcos Ayerza
2 George Chuter
3 Martin Castrogiovanni
4 Louis Deacon (c)
5 George Skivington
6 Thomas Waldrom
7 Craig Newby
8 Jordan Crane

16 Rob Hawkins
17 Boris Stankovich
18 Dan Cole
19 Ed Slater
20 Steve Mafi
21 James Grindal
22 Jeremy Staunton
23 Horacio Agulla

Scarlets 15 Rhys Priestland, 14 Morgan Stoddart, 13 Regan King, 12 Jonathan Davies, 11 Sean Lamont, 10 Stephen Jones, 9 Tavis Knoyle, 1 Iestyn Thomas, 2 Matthew Rees, 3 Simon Gardner, 4 Lou Reed, 5 Vernon Cooper, 6 Rob McCusker, 7 Josh Turnbull, 8 David Lyons Replacements 16 Emyr Phillips, 17 Rhodri Jones, 18 Phil John, 19 Jonny Fa’amatuainu, 20 Ben Morgan, 21 Richard Pugh, 22 Martin Roberts, 23 Gareth Maule


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