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Worcester Warriors call up Blair Cowan for tonight's big Gloucester derby
WARRIORS boss Richard Hill has tinkered with his team selection as Worcester go in search of their first Aviva Premiership victory since before Christmas.
The Sixways side make the short trip to local rivals Gloucester for tonight’s televised clash at Kingsholm (7.45) and Hill has recalled number eight Blair Cowan and centre Josh Matavesi as well as giving hooker Ed Shervington a start ahead of Aleki Lutui, who drops to the bench.
Despite being released from Scotland’s Six Nations training camp this week, wing Nikki Walker has not been included with Hill instead opting to play fit-again Chris Pennell on the right flank with Errie Claassens continuing at full-back.
In-form winger Josh Drauniniu is ruled out by a shoulder injury, but tighthead prop Euan Murray starts as he has not been considered for Scotland’s Six Nations clash with Ireland on Sunday due to religious reasons.
Matt Kvesic, who will join Gloucester in the summer, has returned from training with England this week and reverts to his preferred number seven jersey as Cowan comes in at the back of the pack to make his first league start of the campaign.
Centre Jon Clarke, who has impressed in recent weeks, has been axed as Hill looks to add creativity to his back-line by bringing in Fijian international Matavesi to team up with Alex Grove in midfield.
Neil Best’s costly late sin-binning in last weekend’s 27-18 home defeat to Northampton Saints appears to have incurred the wrath of Hill as the former Ireland international goes from starting at blindside for that game to not being in the 23 at all tonight.
“Kingsholm is a very tough place to go — it’s a big derby under lights, but we normally perform well in these evening games,” said Hill.
“The players have been in good spirits despite the defeat to Northampton last weekend.
“Gloucester will pose very similar problems to us that Northampton did.
“Our defence will certainly be tested in the wider areas as they have got some sharp players like Jonny May, Charlie Sharples and Rob Cook.”
Gloucester director of rugby Nigel Davies has made just two changes to the side that lost 33-29 at Wasps last weekend. Dan Murphy replaces Nick Wood at loosehead, while Henry Trinder partners Mike Tindall in midfield in place of Tim Molenaar.
Gloucester: Cook; Sharples, Trinder, Tindall, May; Mills, Robson; Murphy, Dawidiuk, Harden, Lokotui, James, Savage, Qera, Kalamafoni. Replacements: Edmonds, Wood, Chistolini, Buxton, Hazell, Lewis, Molenaar, Thomas.
Warriors: Claassens; Pennell, Grove, Matavesi, Lemi; Goode, Arr; Mullan, Shervington, Murray, Percival, Schofield, Betty, Kvesic, Cowan. Replacements: Lutui, Ceri Jones, Andress, Gillies, Abbott, Hodgson, Gray, Clarke.