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Premiership Rugby


A Gallagher Premiership Rugby ball

15 – THINUS DELPORT (Gloucester) v MARK VAN GISBERGEN (London Wasps)

Called into the South Africa 'A' squad this week, a marvellous season has revived Delport's World Cup hopes, and his solid all-round game will likely find itself up against Kiwi Mark Van Gisbergen, who may lack the top-level experience of Delport, but contributes well in attack for Wasps.

The verdict: Delport the rock to win this battle. 

14/11 – MARCEL GARVEY (Gloucester) v KENNY LOGAN (London Wasps)

Very much a contrast of pace and power here, with the tyro England Under-21 and 'A' wing Garvey finding himself up against the experienced Logan, who – despite his comparatively senior status, is still a threat on the domestic stage.

The verdict: The elusive Garvey to prosper in attack. 

13 – TERRY FANOLUA (Gloucester) v FRASER WATERS (London Wasps)

Samoan Fanolua has been one of the fulcrums in the Gloucester engine room this season, his hard-running and fearsome tackling complementing the finesse of midfield partner Henry Paul. His opposite number on Saturday is very much an all-rounder, and combines sound running angles with a solid defensive game.

The verdict: Very close, but the uncompromising Fanolua to edge it. 

12 – HENRY PAUL (Gloucester) v STUART ABBOTT (London Wasps).

There is a feast of creativity at inside centre, when ex-League man Paul and new England recruit Abbott do battle. Paul has magical hands and unsurpassed vision, while Abbott throws a mean dummy and possesses fearsome acceleration. Expect some fine rugby from this pair.

The verdict:  Abbott to stamp home his Test credentials. 

11/14 – JAMES SIMPSON-DANIEL (Gloucester) v JOSH LEWSEY (London Wasps)

Mouth-watering stuff on the wing as two England buddies go head-to-head, the compact Simpson-Daniel testing his cunning against a supreme athlete in the physical and athletic Lewsey. Both have a wide array of skills, although Simpson-Daniel's kicking and Lewsey's strong running mean they are not mere clones of each other.

The verdict: Lewsey to power past his tricky opponent. 

10 – LUDOVIC MERCIER (Gloucester) v ALEX KING (London Wasps)

In his last game for Gloucester, French points machine Mercier will want a fitting send-off on the big stage, and expect his supreme goal-kicking to bolster his staid-but-effective approach to fly-half play. King may be the more adventurous of the two, but arguably lacks the kicking consistency of his opposite number.

The verdict: Mercier to rule the roost with the boot. 

9 – ANDY GOMARSALL (Gloucester) v ROB HOWLEY (London Wasps)

Realistically jostling with Kyran Bracken for the England bench spot on tour in Australasia next month, Gomarsall will be keen to send a message to England coach Clive Woodward on Saturday, with his sniping fringe play being a constant threat, although decision-making is perhaps not his strongest suit. In the vastly experienced Howley, he has an opponent of the highest class, who may well use his cunning to outfox the Gloucester defence.

The verdict: Howley to think his way to victory in battle of the No.9s.

8 – JUNIOR PARAMORE (Gloucester) v LAWRENCE DALLAGLIO (London Wasps)

A real battle of the heavyweights between two of the most effective back row ball-carriers in the Premiership, the performances of both players will be crucial to the outcome of the match. Samoan international Paramore has been an inspiration for the Cherry and Whites but his close-quarter strength is equal to that of Dallaglio, it is the England man's mobility which should give him the edge in this department.

The verdict: Dallaglio has the edge in this battle.

7 – ANDY HAZELL (Gloucester) v PAUL VOLLEY (London Wasps)

Another tantalising match-up with both players named in the senior England squad to tour Australasia and eager to prove their openside credentials in a showpiece event. Hazel recovered from a mid-season knee injury to reclaim his place at the heart of the Gloucester pack and is a fiery customer with a tremendous workrate. Volley is one of the unsung heroes of the Wasps team who may not often grab the headlines but makes his presence felt.

The verdict: Hazell's physical presence puts him ahead.

6 – JAKE BOER (Gloucester) v JOE WORSLEY (London Wasps)

A key man for Gloucester, Boer was the experts' and supporters' choice as Zurich player of the year, his irresistible forward drives and high tackle count gaining him plenty of plaudits. Worsley is also a class act in the back row, an athletic dynamo who is most comfortable roaming around the pitch with ball in hand.

The verdict: Too close to call at blindside with two evenly matched players near the top of their game.

5 – ADAM EUSTACE (Gloucester) v SIMON SHAW (London Wasps)

The current Zurich player of the month, Shaw has catapulted himself back into the England ranks with a string of excellent peformances and at 6ft 10 inches is a massive presence in the tight and loose. While he may lack the sheer bulk of his opposite number, Eustace has all the attributes of a top-class second row forward allied to the handling skills of a back rower.

The verdict: A Shaw thing for the Wasps man.

4 – MARK CORNWELL (Gloucester) v RICHARD BIRKETT (London Wasps)

Both men who prefer to let their performances on the field do their talking, the second rows should be fairly evenly matched as they go about their duties in the engine rooms of their respective teams. Both solid on their own ball in the lineout, they get through plenty of hard work in the loose.

The verdict: The ultimate team man, Cornwell is guaranteed to dig deep for Gloucester.

3/1 – PHIL VICKERY (Gloucester) v CRAIG DOWD (London Wasps)

This England v New Zealand battle will not be for the faint-hearted, with both players bringing bucketloads of experience to the party. The self-styled 'Raging Bull' of Gloucester is the eptiome of the modern front rower, combining raw close-quarter power with impressive mobility around the park, while Dowd is one of the most exalted of All Blacks, having won 59 caps for his country during a glittering career.

The verdict: A very close call but Vickery's relative youth gives him the edge.

2 – OLIVIER AZAM (Gloucester) v TREVOR LEOTA (London Wasps)

With Azam returning to his homeland after this encounter, expect the Frenchman to be fired up for his last appearance in the Gloucester jersey. Blessed with excellent set-piece skills, Azam's lineout technique should help Gloucester gain the lion's share of possession. In the tight, Leota tends to have the odd wobble, but in the loose he is a sight to behold and one of the biggest hitters in the Premiership.

The verdict: Azam's lineout consistency makes him a key man for Gloucester.

1/3 – TREVOR WOODMAN (Gloucester) v WILL GREEN (London Wasps)

Seen by many as the natural successor to England stalwart Jason Leonard, loosehead Woodman combines solidity in the scrum with a good rugby brain and excellent handling skills and will almost certainly feature in Clive Woodward's RWC 2003 squad. Green has also had a taste of international rugby, winning one cap in the 1990s and is guaranteed to anchor the Wasps scrum from the tighthead.

The verdict: Honours even in the scrum, but Woodman's mobility gives him the nod


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