CHRIS Pennell will skipper Worcester Warriors when they lock horns with Bristol in the Greene King IPA Championship opener at Ashton Gate on Sunday (2.40pm).

He captains the side as number eight and new captain Gerrit-Jan van Velze is unavailable. A club spokesman declined to elaborate on why he is missing the match.

Pennell, who made his England debut in the summer, is part of a strong Warriors backline that includes new signings Tom Biggs and Sam Smith on the wings.

Director of rugby Dean Ryan makes just two changes to the starting 15 that faced Exeter Chiefs in last week's pre-season clash.

James Percival lines up next to Dan Sanderson in the second-row and Sam Betty steps into the back-row at number seven with Matt Cox switching to number eight to replace van Velze.

Ryan Bower, Dan George and Nick Schonert will occupy the front-row while the versatile Mike Williams starts as blindside flanker next to Betty and Matt Cox at number-eight.

Ignacio Mieres is given the nod at fly-half with Andy Symons and Alex Grove in the centre while Jonny Arr is named at scrum-half.

The replacements include Academy youngsters Mike Daniels, Christian Scotland-Williamson and Tiff Eden, who will all make their league debuts should they feature for Warriors.

New boys Niall Annett and Charlie Mulchrone are also on the bench alongside Richard de Carpentier and Max Stelling.

Warriors: Pennell; Smith, Grove, Symons, Biggs; Mieres, Arr; Bower, George, Schonert, Percival, Sanderson, Williams, Betty, Cox Replacements: Annett, Daniels, Scotland-Williamson, de Carpentier, Mulchrone, Eden, Stelling.