Leicester Tigers v Saracens Premiership Preview

Leicester Tigers host London Irish Welford Road

For the first time since the opening day of the season Leicester Tigers have named Tom Croft in their squad to face Saracens at Welford Road in the Aviva Premiership on Saturday.

International back-rower Croft is named among the replacements and is in line for his first appearance since surgery on a knee injury following the Round 1 win over Worcester Warriors back in September.

Toby Flood, David Mele and Blaine Scully are added to the backline following last week’s bonus-point win over Sale Sharks.

In the forward pack, Steve Mafi joins fellow internationals Pablo Matera and Thomas Waldrom in the back row and Louis Deacon partners Geoff Parling in the second row.

Dan Bowden takes a place among the replacements alongside Croft, and tighthead prop Tiziano Pasquali is included in an Aviva Premiership squad for the first time after three appearances in the LV= Cup this season.

Director of rugby Richard Cockerill said,”Tom Croft has been training fully and having him back is obviously good news. He’s come through all the challenges on his way back to fitness and it’s good to see him ready to go again.

“Steve Mafi, too, has been waiting for his chance and I feel he is ready to be rewarded with a place in the squad.

“Everyone has worked exceptionally hard to get this far but there is still work to do.”

Leicester Tigers have already qualified for a tenth successive play-off spot, but will need a bonus point win to give themselves any chance, dependent upon other results, of a home semi-final.

Tigers only defeat at Welford Road in the Premiership since February 2013 was to Harlequins in round 7 this season.

Saracens have already ensured a home semi-final and have lost only once in any tournament since early February: 7-26 at Northampton in the semi-final of the Anglo-Welsh Cup on 8th March.

Saracens have lost only one away game in the Premiership this season, at Northampton in round 6.

Leicester have not beaten Saracens since the Aviva Premiership Rugby semi-final at Welford Road in 2012.

Saracens were victorious over the Tigers at Allianz Park in round 10 but have not done a regular season’s double over the East Midlanders since 2010/11.

Saracens have named Jamie George to captain their side from hooker. The Saracens academy product is joined by Rhys Gill and Petrus Du Plessis in the front row.

At lock, Hayden Smith starts his first Premiership game since returning to the club this season, and is joined by Eoin Sheriff in the second row.

In the back-row, England U20s international Maro Itoje makes his Premiership debut for the club starting at blindside flanker. He is joined in by German international Justin Melck at openside, and Nick Fenton-Wells at No.8.

In the back division, Ben Ransom starts at full back, with Fijian Michael Tagicakibau and New Zealander Jack Wilson named on the wings. In the midfield, Scotland international Duncan Taylor starts at inside centre, and is joined by Tim Streather.

Scrum-half Ben Spencer comes into the side at half-back, and is joined by the experienced Charlie Hodgson who has returned from injury to start at fly-half.

Match : Leicester Tigers v Saracens
Date : Saturday 10 May
Venue : Welford Road,
Kick Off : 3.15pm
Live on: N/A
Match Officials
Referee:
Greg Garner (64th Premiership game).
Assistant Referees: Paul Burton and Simon McConnell.
TMO: Sean Davey.

Teams

Leicester Tigers

15 Mathew Tait, 14 Niall Morris, 13 Manusamoa Tuilagi, 12 Toby F

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