Big Match Preview: Leicester Tigers v Gloucester Rugby in Gallagher Premiership Rugby
All eyes will be on Gloucester Rugby and Leicester Tigers in the first round of Gallagher Premiership Rugby action of 2019 as the two sides do battle at Welford Road.
The Cherry and Whites suffered a shock defeat to Sale Sharks at Kingsholm in their final game of 2018 and will be eager to get their top four challenge back on track against Tigers.
Tigers also finished the year on a sour note as they lost to Bath Rugby at the Rec, having ended their run of eight consecutive defeats in all competitions against Harlequins in Round 10.
Jonny May’s try gave Leicester the lead against their bitter rivals, but Tigers were unable to hold on as tries from Jamie Roberts, Nathan Catt and Ruaridh McConnochie gave Bath victory.
What’s at stake?
With the Gallagher Premiership table so tight below the top two of Saracens and Exeter Chiefs, every game in the 2018/19 campaign is pivotal as the rest of the league fights to improve their standing.
Despite losing to Sale last time out, Johan Ackermann’s men start the year in third with a four-point advantage over Harlequins in the fourth semi-final spot.
A victory over Leicester would help them solidify their position in the top four, but Geordan Murphy’s outfit will be determined to start 2019 positively after a challenging year.
Tigers have only won four of their first 11 games in the league this season and need to pick up points quickly to avoid being dragged into the relegation scrap at the bottom of the table.
Form so far
Gloucester have been one of the form sides in the Premiership this season, with six wins, one draw and four defeats to their name following the opening 11 rounds of action.
The Cherry and Whites did slip up against Sale Sharks, but they were missing the star power of fly-half Danny Cipriani who has been instrumental to their success in this campaign.
Meanwhile, Leicester Tigers’ fortunes could not be more different as they struggled to find wins at the end of 2018 – beating Harlequins for their first win in nine in all competitions.
A defeat to Bath Rugby last time out caused more frustration for a side more used to challenging at the top, but Murphy will hope the new year will provide a fresh start for Tigers.
But true to 🍒🍒 style they still managed to manipulate an overlap, with try-hooker Jaco Visagie grabbing another one 🏉🏉
— Premiership Rugby (@premrugby) December 30, 2018
History suggests Leicester Tigers have the advantage over Gloucester, with the hosts winning 11, losing five and drawing one of their last 16 meetings in the Premiership.
Tigers had enjoyed a seven-match winning streak over Gloucester before they were beaten in February 2018 – losing 24-17 at Kingsholm in the Premiership.
And the clubs now appear to be on different trajectories, especially after the Cherry and Whites delivered a dominant display to beat Leicester again at Kingsholm in November.
One thing that can always be guaranteed is points. A record-breaking 41-41 draw at Welford Road in 2011 is the highlight in an entertaining history of match-ups between the two sides.
Ollie Thorley scored a brace as Gloucester ran in five tries to clinch comfortable 36-13 triumph against Leicester Tigers the last time the two sides faces each other.
Jason Woodward, Matt Banahan and Fraser Balmain all crossed to give the hosts a 22-6 lead at the break, before the Tigers rallied after the restart with a Mike Williams try.
His score was sandwiched in between Thorley’s double, however, with the youngster producing a mesmerising breakaway from just outside his own 22 to score his second.
While Thorley’s try-scoring exploits earned all the headlines, Cipriani was hailed for his performance as his quick hands contributed to Woodward and Banahan’s early tries.
Full Time at Kingsholm
— Gloucester Rugby (@gloucesterrugby) November 16, 2018
Despite injury concerns, Gloucester’s backline still has plenty of magic to offer, as they have been doing so far this campaign.
The Cherry and Whites have plenty of stars who can deliver on the big stage, with Henry Trinder and Charlie Sharples among those who can produce something from nothing.
Leicester will also be relying on their backline to come good, with George Ford and Ben Youngs a constant threat.
With the likes of Jonny May and Manu Tuilagi also providing threat, Tigers are more than capable of starting the new year with a bang as they attempt to climb back up the table.