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Croft's form earns Tigers start

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Tom Croft starts his first Guinness Premiership game of the season when Leicester Tigers go to Worcester Warriors on Saturday (kick-off 2.45pm).

The England Sevens international earned a place in the 22 for the opening-day win over defending champions Sale Sharks but suffered an ankle injury after coming off the bench in the second half of that game and was sidelined until the end of November. Since then he has made four more appearances from the bench and last week started in the second row against Argentina, scoring a spectacular try, and now switches to the back row.

Ollie Smith, Dan Hipkiss and Leo Cullen all return after missing the last league game, against Newcastle Falcons on January 27.

Head coach Howard will trust the depth of his Tigers squad as internationals Harry Ellis, James Hamilton, Martin Castrogiovanni and Geordan Murphy are named among the replacements. Martin Corry, Louis Deacon and George Chuter are not in the 22, and Lewis Moody is ruled out by injury.

Julian White does start, however, after being restricted to appearances from the England bench in the last fortnight.

Looking towards the trip to Sixways, where Tigers have already won this season in the EDF Energy Cup pool stages, forwards coach Richard Cockerill said: "Worcester's defence has improved a lot with Phil Larder involved. They are a good team and in their last game they drew with Wasps, who are also a decent side. We will certainly not take them lightly.

"We have never found it easy at Sixways and we have been upset there in previous years. We are not looking to invite an upset again."

15. Sam Vesty
14. Alesana Tuilagi
13. Ollie Smith
12. Dan Hipkiss
11. Seru Rabeni
10. Ian Humphreys
9. Frank Murphy

1. Marcos Ayerza
2. James Buckland
3. Julian White
4. Leo Cullen (captain)
5. Ben Kay
6. Tom Croft
7. Shane Jennings
8. Brett Deacon


16. Gavin Hickie
17. Martin Castrogiovanni
18. James Hamilton
19. Jordan Crane
20. Harry Ellis
21. Daryl Gibson
22. Geordan Murphy