TOP BAR - Fixtures

LV= Cup preview: London Welsh v Gloucester Rugby

Tom Hicks is hoping to see a fresh-faced Gloucester Rugby side bounce back in style when they visit London Welsh in the LV= Cup on Sunday.

Last weekend was a frustrating one for the Cherry & Whites, denied a tournament-opening victory over reigning LV= Cup champions Exeter Chiefs by the width of a post.

However, after Aviva Premiership Rugby new boys London Welsh were put to the sword by Bath Rugby in their opener, Hicks wants to inflict more pain on the Exiles.

Fleet-footed winger Steph Reynolds comes into the side and England U20 international Callum Braley starts at scrum-half, while 23-year-old Hicks takes veteran James Hudson’s spot in the second row.

“I think we’ve gone with a young and exciting team for the Welsh game and it’s a massive opportunity to go and play against a side that has a good mix of youth and experience in it,” said Hicks.

“We know that they’re going to be a very physical pack and we’ve got to match that, especially for the first 60 minutes and then hope our fitness can take us through to the end.

“We’ve spoken quite a bit about London Welsh and what they’re going to bring and we’ve trained appropriately for that.

“We’ve also focused a lot on ourselves because we’ve got a few new players coming into the team, so it’s important to be clear about what mentality we’ll go into the game with.

“We’re going to go into this weekend looking to win and we’ve done the preparations to make sure we do that.”

For Welsh the pursuit of their first win of the season is still very much top of the list and head coach Justin Burnell has beefed up his team accordingly.

Some familiar faces will be on show at the Kassam Stadium, with Tom May captaining the side from inside centre and Seb Stegmann starting on the right wing.

The pack features Dean Schofield, James Down and Ben Pienaar and skipper May is hoping to build up some momentum for next weekend’s return to Premiership action, while ensuring the younger lads keep benefitting from first-team exposure.

“I had a couple of weeks off for the European fixtures and it’s all building towards an important three or four weeks in the Premiership,” he said.

“Some of our young guys coming through are in an environment at the moment where they will learn a lot about the game and about themselves.

“I had something similar when I was at Newcastle and you do learn a lot about how to keep fighting when things aren’t going your way.

“It’s all very well starting out at clubs where you’re always on the front foot, but then when things start to go bad you don’t know how to react to that.

“In this environment, there’s only one thing to do and that’s keep fighting, and it’s great that the younger guys are getting the chance to do that for the side in the LV= Cup.”

For your definitive guide to the LV= Cup click here

Be part of the rugby family at the LV= Cup Final at Franklin's Gardens, Northampton on Sunday 22 March. Visit www.northamptonsaints.co.uk for tickets

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