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Leicester Tigers v Gloucester: The battle of England's No 10s


The two men who could be vying for the England No.10 jersey in the Six Nations will embark on a fascinating head-to-head at Welford Road today.

Leicester's Toby Flood is the man with the experience after picking up 53 caps during his lengthy international career.

Meanwhile, Gloucester's Freddie Burns is the pretender having made his debut off the bench during the famous win over New Zealand in the autumn internationals.

Throw Saracens' Owen Farrell into the mix and it is clear that England head coach Stuart Lancaster will have some tough choices to make in the new year.

Tigers director of rugby Richard Cockerill said he was expecting a good battle.

"Everyone has been talking Freddie Burns up but Toby Flood is a quality operator and we know exactly how good he is," he said.

"Freddie has been in great form and his ability to create something from nothing is pretty good.

"But you have to do those things and perform consistently well week in, week out and Toby Flood has done that for a long while."

The winner of that half-back battle will make a huge statement at the very least, and their head-to-head is just one sub-plot in a long list as third-placed Leicester host fourth-placed Gloucester.

A win for the visitors would not only take them above Leicester in the Aviva Premiership table, but it would complete a league double over the Tigers for the first time since 2003-4, Tigers lost 27-21 at Kingsholm in late October.

Should Tigers stop the Cherry & Whites gaining only their second Premiership win in history at Welford Road, they will put some serious distance between themselves and one of the sides who are likely to be competing for the play-offs with them come May.

"Gloucester have hit the ground running this season and have done some good things," said Cockerill.

"But I was looking at the stats this week and Gloucester have not scored a try bonus point all season. That fact did surprise me."

"Charlie Sharples is an obvious threat for them and they have some good ball carriers in the back-row.

"They have played very well at home and they obviously thrive on that atmosphere at Kingsholm.

"Well, Welford Road will be loud and intimidating today and I am sure that the big crowd that are coming will give it that 'home ground' feel to it. "Our home form has been good and that atmosphere they will create will be key for us.

"We saw from their reaction at Kingsholm, how important it was for them to beat Leicester.

"If we can win this time, it could put us six points ahead of them and every point is important in the second half of the season.

Cockerill has chosen one of his strongest XVs of the season and while Tom Croft, Thomas Waldrom, Vereniki Goneva and Mat Tait are still missing with injury, Steve Mafi returns to the squad after a knee injury he picked up in training after the autumn internationals.

Brett Deacon is rewarded for his good form against Treviso with his fifth start. Today will see him come up against the club he left in the summer.

"Both sides have the same: won, drawn, lost ratio this season, so it is just the bonus points we have picked up that separate the sides," said Cockerill. "It should be a good game shouldn't it?"

London Irish have signed Tigers scrum-half Patrick Phibbs on a short-term contract until the end of the season.

The 31-year-old Phibbs made five appearances for Tigers including in the win over the Maori All Blacks, and moves to Irish to provide injury cover for Tomas O'Leary.

Leicester Tigers v Gloucester: The battle of England's No 10s

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