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Drauniniu returns to boost Warriors

By Geoff Berkeley Friday 04 January 2013 Updated: 04/01 23:50

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Buy photos » Josh Drauniniu will start on the wing against Leicester Tigers. Picture by Ian Smith.

FLYING wing Josh Drauniniu is set to make his first Aviva Premiership start since November as Worcester Warriors aim to kick off 2013 with victory over Leicester Tigers at Sixways tonight (Friday, 8pm).

The 27-year-old's inclusion is one of six changes made by head coach Richard Hill to the starting line-up, which lost 33-27 to bottom side Sale Sharks last week.

Nikki Walker, who has yet to get over the whitewash this season, has been ruled out with a back spasm to hand Drauniniu the chance to shine on the wing for the first time since Warriors' defeat at Exeter Chiefs.

Another notable change sees scrum half Jonny Arr replace Paul Hodgson, who has been ruled out due to an injured jaw, while centre Jon Clarke has been recalled at inside centre.

There were also three changes to the pack as Dean Schofield joins James Percival, who retains the captaincy, in the second row, while Aleki Lutui and Sam Betty return.

Hill, who has also named fit-again prop Matt Mullan on the bench, admitted the run of fixtures over the Christmas period had taken its toll on his players.

But he urged his side to not hold back against third place Tigers as Warriors look to maintain their impressive home record.

“There were a number of battered and bruised bodies after the game at Sale and it is vital the team that starts is in the best physical shape for such a crucial game," Hill said.

“Paul Hodgson misses out after picking up a jaw injury, but I know Jonny Arr will be keen to grasp this opportunity. We also call-up Aleki Lutui, Dean Schofield, Sam Betty, Jon Clarke and Josh Drauniniu and they will be determined to take advantage of this chance to shine."

Hill added: "We have a real sense of pride when playing in front of our fans at Sixways, but this will undoubtedly be our toughest challenge yet.

"If we want to keep our home record intact we have got to pull out all the stops and raise the bar once more against Leicester.”

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