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Premiership Rugby

Leicester Tigers name side for London Wasps

A Gallagher Premiership Rugby ball

Tigers director of rugby Dean Richards has named his team to take on London Wasps in Saturday's Zurich Premiership clash at Welford Road (kick-off 3pm), switching Austin Healey to fullback against last season's champions.

Healey takes the No.15 shirt from Steve Booth, who is struggling with an ankle injury, Richards saying of Healey's move: "Playing Austin at fullback gives another dimension to our play. He seems to be back to his best, and should enjoy the time and space at the back."

American international Dan Lyle is straight back into action after returning this week from the world cup, while Will Johnson misses out with an Achilles injury.

"It's nice to have Dan back. He's a quality player, as you'd expect, and he's keen to get involved – we're delighted he's here," said Richards.

Jim Richards starts at hooker after George Chuter went off with a nose injury at Bath last Saturday, while England Sevens star Neil Baxter gets his first Zurich Premiership start on the right wing after coming on as a late replacement against Bath.

"John Holtby is struggling with an ankle injury," said Richards. "But Neil Baxter's current form had demanded his inclusion regardless."

Having been beaten 31-17 at Bath last time out to suffer a record fifth successive defeat, Richards said in the build-up to this weekend's clash with Wasps: "I wouldn't exactly say we're buoyant. There were a lot of things came out of the Bath game – it was top versus third from bottom.

"We always thought it was going to be difficult, but we won our own line out ball, held our scrummage but let in three sloppy tries. There were those positives, but from the point of view of letting in three easy tries then we were obviously disappointed.

"It wouldn't seem as if we're making progress if you look on paper, and one of the problems we've had over the last ten weeks or so is that we haven't had a stable platform to function off.

"At this moment in time we're starting to sort our scrums out and get better in the line outs, so that we have a base to work from. "

Of Saturday's opponents, he added: "We know it's not going to be easy against a Wasps side on a bit of a roll at the moment, but at the same time we have the confidence of knowing that our first phase possession is going well.

"It would be difficult to turn around and say that Wasps weren't worthy winners of the Premiership last season. Everybody knew what the league structure was at the start of the season, they came out and finished in the top three and then won the final. Gloucester also knew the position they were in and have to accept that they came second in the championship.

"Wasps have lost some of their experienced players to the world cup, and the loss of Simon Shaw this week I think will affect them. But they've got a quality back line and some experience in the forwards with guys like Craig Dowd, Trevor Leota and Paul Volley."

Fly-half Ramiro Pez gets a second successive start, with Richards saying of the former Rotherham star: "His kicking, whether it be out of hand, place kicking or drop-goals has always been excellent. We've known that for a while, but he's just had to adapt parts of his game to suit the Leicester style."

Tigers find themselves in the unfamiliar position of being second-bottom in the table, but Richards is refusing to throw in the towel, saying: "It's frustrating where we are at the moment. But for the bounce of a ball or the odd refereeing decision then we perhaps wouldn't be there. We're not getting help from anybody, and everyone's here to knock us because of our success over the last few years.

"But we have to accept it. It's not through a lack of hard work and endeavour, the boys are working very hard and we're improving each week, even though the results might not show it. Hopefully this week we'll turn it round."

Tigers team to face London Wasps:

15 Austin Healey14 Neil Baxter13 Ollie Smith12 Daryl Gibson11 Freddie Tuilagi10 Ramiro Pez9 Harry Ellis

1 Graham Rowntree2 Jim Richards3 Darren Morris4 Stewart Campbell5 Louis Deacon6 Will Skinner7 Josh Kronfeld ©8 Dan Lyle

Replacements:

16 George Chuter17 Ricky Nebbett 18 Brett Deacon19 Henry Tuilagi20 Adam Balding21 Steve Booth22 Sam Vesty

ENDS

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