MX23RW : Wednesday, February 28 12:53:11| >> :600:8954752:8954752:
Gallagher Premiership
Oct 13, 2023 at 7.45pm UK
Leicester Tigers
Bristol Bears
Leicester Tigers
Ibitoye (1', 22'), Thacker (20')
Kelly (50'), Liebenberg (71')

Preview: Bristol Bears vs. Leicester Tigers - prediction, team news, lineups

Sports Mole previews Friday's Gallagher Premiership clash between Bristol Bears and Leicester Tigers, including predictions, team news and possible lineups.

The 2023-24 Gallagher Premiership Rugby season kicks off this week with the Bristol Bears taking on the Leicester Tigers at Ashton Gate on Friday evening.

The Bears will be looking for a major improvement on the ninth-placed finish they managed last season, while the Tigers ended in third place and will be aiming to go a step further than this semi-final this term.

Match preview

Bristol Bears' Charles Piutau scores their second try on May 17, 2021© Reuters

With the 2023 Rugby World Cup underway in France and returning players likely to need time to rest, it will be interesting to see how the sides in this competition cope, especially during the early stages.

Bristol will come into this match in fine spirits after claiming a massive win over Cambridge last week in the Premiership Rugby Cup.

In a lopsided match, the Bears secured a 98-14 win at this venue, leaving them in third place in Pool D with 15 points after five matches, four points behind Ealing Trailfinders at the top.

Rich Lane, Magnus Bradbury, and Josh Caulfield scored for Bristol, securing a bonus point with a mere 16 minutes of powerful offensive play before Tommy Taylor and Sam Bedlow added on to leave the Bears 38-0 up at half time.

While taking on Leicester is a much bigger task, that win was Bristol's third in a row and will give them a welcome boost of confidence heading into this tough fixture.

Leicester Tigers' Ben Youngs scores against Northampton on September 13, 2020© Reuters

Meanwhile, with a healthy lead in the Premiership Cup, Leicester opted for a relatively inexperienced team for their final group match last week and were beaten by the Bedford Blues 47-28.

Despite the loss and making 23 changes, including eight debutants from the team that defeated Newcastle Falcons 60-7, the Tigers have still advanced to the semi-finals of the Premiership Cup scheduled for February next year.

Leicester topped Pool Two with 20 points, including four wins and a loss, while they also secured a bonus point in each of those wins and maintained an impressive 132-point difference.

The Tigers are now under new management, led by coach Dan McKellar, who seems to be trying to shape a new-look team showcasing exciting additions to the back division, including Ollie Hassell-Collins and Solomone Kata.

While their opponents will be brimming with confidence after their win last week, the visitors are the clear favourites in this match, having not lost to the Bears since December 2021.

Bristol Bears form (all competitions):

  • W
  • L
  • L
  • W
  • W
  • W

Leicester Tigers form (all competitions):

  • L
  • W
  • W
  • W
  • W
  • L

Team News

The Bears have made a number of signings over the off-season while a few big names have also departed, such as Semi Radradra and Charles Piutau.

Benhard Janse van Rensburg and Caulfield arrived at the club following London Irish's financial difficulties this year, along with Virimi Vakatawa, and all three players could be in contention for a starting place.

The front row appears to be well-established, with England players Ellis Genge and Kyle Sinckler flanking hooker Harry Thacker, who seems poised to become the club's leading try-scorer this season based on his impressive performances in pre-season.

Tigers will be without fly-half Handre Pollard, who received a call-up to join the South Africa squad for the remainder of the 2023 Rugby World Cup.

Leicester has also made several signings in the off-season, including Australian international Sam Carter, who played in their last match against the Blues and will be hoping for a starting 15 place in this one as well.

Bristol Bears predicted starting lineup: 15. Max Malins, 14. Siva Naulago, 13. Virimi Vakatawa, 12. Benhard Janse van Rensburg, 11. Kalaveti Ravouvou, 10. AJ MacGinty, 9. Harry Randall, 8. Magnus Bradbury, 7. Fitz Harding, 6. Steven Luatua, 5. Chris Vui, 4. Joe Batley, 3. Kyle Sinckler, 2. Harry Thacker, 1. Ellis Genge

Replacements: 16. Will Capon, 17. Andrew Turner, 18. George Kloska, 19. Ed Holmes, 20. Jake Heenan, 21. Kiaren Marmion, 22. Callum Sheedy, 23. Piers O'Conor

Leicester Tigers predicted starting lineup: 15. Mike Brown, 14. Josh Bassett, 13. Guy Porter, 12. Dan Kelly, 11. Ollie Hassell-Collins, 10. Charlie Atkinson, 9. Joe Powell, 8. Matt Rogerson, 7. Olly Cracknell, 6. Hanro Liebenberg, 5. Harry Wells, 4. Cameron Henderson, 3. Joe Heyes, 2. Charlie Clare, 1. Francois van Wyk

Replacements: 16. Nic Dolly, 17. James Whitcombe, 18. Will Hurd, 19. Mike Williams, 20. Kyle Hatherell, 21. Tom Whiteley, 22. Jamie Shillcock, 23. Phil Cokanasiga

SM words green background

We say: Bristol Bears 26-35 Leicester Tigers

Leicester finished in the top four of this competition for a third time in succession last term, and based on their Premiership Cup form, they look set to compete for the top spots again this season. Despite losing last week, the Tigers are expected to return to a full-strength side in this one, and we fancy them to get their campaign started with a victory.

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