Northampton Saints v Leicester Tigers Preview

Saints have already beaten the Tigers at Franklin’s Gardens this season: 23-11 in the LV= Cup on 6 February, although Leicester won 29-15 at Welford Road in the Guinness Premiership on 31 October.


Northampton Saints’ six game winning run in the Guinness Premiership came to a halt at the Twickenham Stoop on Saturday. The Saints have won their last 17 games in all competitions at Franklin’s Gardens since Newcastle won there, 19-13 in the Premiership on 28 February 2009.


Table topping Leicester Tigers are the best team in the Guinness Premiership on current form having secured 22 of their last 25 possible points. Leicester have recorded at least one league point from each of their last 29 matches.


Internationals Julian White, Alesana Tuilagi and Ben Kay return to the Leicester Tigers line-up.Tighthead prop White joins Marcos Ayerza and Mefin Davies in the front row, while Rugby World Cup winner Kay teams up with Geoff Parling at lock.


Tuilagi comes in on the wing, with Scott Hamilton moving to full-back in the absence of Ireland international Geordan Murphy.


Back-rower Craig Newby leads the team as captain for the first time.


Sam Vesty and Johne Murphy are recalled to the matchday 23.


Head coach Richard Cockerill said: “It should be a great occasion. It’s first versus second in the table, live on TV and a local derby, so there’s a decent mix there for a good game.


“We’ve got a five-point lead in the league but the other sides have a game in hand on us. If we can win this weekend, we beat one of our nearest rivals and that puts us that bit further ahead. But if we lose, everyone else gets that bit closer to us.”


Tigers are without Lucas Amorosino, Richard Blaze, Tom Croft, Dan Hipkiss and Aaron Mauger due to injury. Geordan Murphy, Martin Castrogiovanni, Dan Cole, Louis Deacon, Lewis Moody and Toby Flood are on international duty.


Northampton Saints director of rugby Jim Mallinder said this morning that you are only as good as your last game and that the Saints team has to return to their form of the previous weeks to put pressure on the Tigers.


“We will certainly have to improve massively from the performance at the Stoop if we are to beat Leicester,” he said. “They have hit an excellent run of form recently that has taken them to the top of the Guinness Premiership.


“Despite losing several players to international duty they are able to draft in experienced guys into their first team, and as we saw in the Anglo Welsh LV= Cup game a few weeks ago and the Guinness Premiership match at Welford Road in October, they will be able to take advantage of any mistake that we may make.


“The reaction to the Harlequins game has been positive. No one at the Saints likes losing and we have been fortunate not to have experienced the emotions that come with losing all that often over the past few months.


“The players knew that they could have done a lot better and in the training this week there has been a lot of determination to put the game behind us and kick on, starting tomorrow evening.”


Northampton Saints v Leicester Tigers
Date 27th February 2010
Kick Off :18:00
Venue :Franklin’s Gardens
Referee: Sean Davey (89th Premiership game)


Teams


Northampton Saints


15 Bruce Reihana , 14 Chris Ashton , 13 Jon Clarke , 12 James Downey , 11 Paul Diggin , 10 Stephen Myler , 9 Lee Dickson , 1 Soane Tonga’uiha , 2 Brett Sharman , 3 Brian Mujati , 4 Ignacio Fernandez Lobbe , 5 Juandre Kruger , 6 Courtney Lawes , 7 Neil Best , 8 Phil Dowson (capt)


Replacements , 16 Andy Long , 17 Regardt Dreyer , 18 Darren Morris , 19 James Cannon , 20 Mark Easter , 21 Alan Dickens , 22 Shane Geraghty , 23 Chris Mayor.


Leicester Tigers


15 Scott Hamilton , 14 Alesana Tuilagi

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