Rugby U


Sevens. Pre-season friendlies. Silly season transfer rumours. None of them quite cut the mustard, do they? Well, good news. THE AVIVA PREMIERSHIP IS BACK!

Charles Wheeler here, bringing you completely down-the-middle unbiased coverage of the Premiership curtain-raiser, Gloucester vs Leicester Tigers. Yep. Neutral. No dog in this fight. Nope.

Both sides are seeking an improvement on last season's finish – the hosts want a seat at the top table of European rugby, and Tigers will want to snag a home semi-final in the playoffs for the first time in four years to aid their quest for an 11th league title. That's all a long way off, though. The ambitions of all 12 clubs will play out between now and May, but it all starts here, tonight.

Teams, then! Tigers haven't quite gone all-out with their starting XV tonight, but do hand starts to Manu Tuilagi in his Eddie-Jones-approved 12 shirt, and also to JP Pietersen, making his competitive debut. Ben Youngs and Dan Cole will have to come off the bench. Gloucester, meanwhile, start young Billy Burns at 10 opposite his brother, pushing Billy Twelvetrees to 12.

Kingsholm looks pleasingly rammed as the teams take the pitch. Tigers' new dayglo away kit has forced the officials into their light blue strip, I'm sure you'll be fascinated to hear.

Wayne Barnes in charge, with a mark on his nose that makes it look like someone finally popped him one. And we're off!

Gloucester going through the phases patiently with some good carries from Morgan, but Tigers' line speed is pinning them in midfield. LOTS of early tackles.

CLOSE! Electric break into the 22 by Afoa, who just lacks the pace to finish it. Gloucester on the Tigers 5m line and looking dangerous... but Tigers' intense tackling FINALLY forces an error. Hosts knock on. Visitors get the scrum.

Gloucester get away with a blatant, but not too dangerous, high tackle on Tuilagi. Burns the elder clears the lines for Tigers, but Gloucester are right back on the offensive! No early-season pacing from either side here!

Superb breakdown work from McCaffrey disrupts Gloucester's otherwise near-perfect recycling, and Tigers clear with the penalty. First chance for the visitors to go forwards.