League stars go head to head at Kingsholm

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The Independent Online

On a day when the old and the new feature in the final round of EDF Energy Cup group matches, there is an interesting meeting at Kingsholm.

Gloucester have named the former Bradford Bulls wing Karl Pryce in their starting line-up for the West Country derby against Bath, who have their own ex-rugby league talent, Chev Walker, in their line-up.

It is Pryce's senior debut and while he has been selected on the right wing, he will most certainly run up against Walker, the former Leeds Rhinos player who is at outside centre for Bath.

"We see this is a great opportunity to give Karl another 80 minutes in a competitive environment so we can gauge where he is at," the head coach, Dean Ryan, said. "He is a tremendously exciting prospect but after this game we will have a clearer view of where he needs development. He has fitted into the group really well and now we want to see him at this level of competition."

Walker holds a slight advantage over Pryce in that he has appeared in three previous senior matches for Bath, but one start and two as a replacement will not give him much of an edge. Ryan has named an experienced and competitive side for their second west country derby in a week.

Mike Tindall will captain Gloucester in the centre alongside Jack Adams, while Willie Walker and Haydn Thomas get another opportunity to forge their half-back partnership.

"Mike's experience and attitude are fantastic qualities to have around the squad - he is a great leader and can get the best out of those around him," Ryan said. "We will need his qualities in the coming weeks and [this game] will be a test of that."

Bath, who announced yesterday that injury had forced the former Wales prop Christian Loader into retirement, boast a youthful bench with academy players Jack Cuthbert and Jack Bentall, as well as Mike Mangeolles and Chris Brooker, all with one appearance behind them, among the replacements.

Gloucester can still qualify for the knockout stages of the competition; however, they not only require a win against Bath but also a favour from Bristol, who take an inexperienced team to group leaders Ospreys.

Bristol have made 14 changes to the team that started last week's derby against Gloucester, only scrum-half Brian O'Riordan retaining his place. Lock Sean Hohneck makes his first start since joining from Waikato, while the Bristol bench features academy members Dave Attwood and Gareth Griffiths.

Director of rugby Richard Hill feels that this game provides a chance for his players to shine. "This is an opportunity for some of the other players on the fringes to stake a claim for a first-team place," he said.

"The first team is by no means settled. We must have a competitive squad."

Injury hit Sale have a tough-looking match against Llanelli. Whoever wins is guaranteed a place in the semi-finals.

The good news for Sale is that England hooker Andy Titterrell makes his first start of the season and winger Mark Cueto is back from England duty, while prop Stuart Turner returns from a one-match ban.

Leicester, already through to the semi-finals, are also introducing some new faces. England Under-19 players Tom Youngs and Ollie Dodge make their first-team debuts against Northampton at Franklin's Gardens. Youngs starts at outside centre, Dodge on the left wing.

"I'm looking for massive competitive edge from the team," said head coach Pat Howard. "I'm looking for that killer attitude to say that, even when there is nothing riding on the game in terms of cup progress or league points, we can perform.

Worcester make two changes for the visit of Newport Gwent Dragons, Tevita Taumoepeau replacing Chris Horsman at tight-head, and Lee Best coming in at full-back in place of Thinus Delport.

They have found room on the bench for academy lock Will Bowley as well as Miguel Avramovich, a key member of the Argentina side that beat England at Twickenham.

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