Croft ready for Sarries challenge
May 25, 2011
ESPNscrum Podcast: Aviva Premiership Season Review%]
Leicester flanker Tom Croft insists Saracens' regular-season double over the Tigers will count for nothing in Saturday's Aviva Premiership final at Twickenham.
The Watford-based side have had the beating of the east Midlands giants in their last three league meetings, claiming a win at Welford Road at the end of last season before doing the double over the reigning champions this term.
The two sides now meet in the final for the second consecutive year, with Leicester winning last year's showpiece thanks to a late Dan Hipkiss try.
"We are expecting a very tough test," Croft said. "They beat us home and away in the league, which is disappointing, but this game is not about those results, it's about putting in a performance worthy of winning that cup.
"We know we have to work on certain areas of our game. They will pose different threats Northampton. They have a strong scrum that we will need to wear down, because if they start making headway there they have backs who are capable of scoring from anywhere. They pose a big challenge and it will be a tough one."
Leicester will go in search of a third straight Premiership title, in their seventh-successive final, with rugby director Richard Cockerill and head coach Matt O'Connor in attendance after the RFU took no action against them over allegations they had used foul and abusive language towards referee assessor Brian Campsall during their last-four win over Northampton.
But they will be without powerful centre Manu Tuilagi after the 20-year-old was handed a five-week ban for his three-punch attack on England winger Chris Ashton during their punishing 11-3 semi-final success.
"It will be a loss but someone will step up," he said. "What happened, happened. You wish it hadn't but it has and you have to carry on. He will learn, he is a young guy who is a bright prospect and it's about learning at his age."
Despite the furore over the Saints game, Croft believes the performance ranks among Leicester's best of the season and tees them up perfectly for the final as they chase yet more silverware.
"It was a tough semi-final but we are in a very good place," he said. "We are into another final and we are very pleased with the performance. We had shown glimpses of what we can do during the season but not put together a full 80 minutes.
"But we played the game the right way. We limited their forwards and the power they had. We closed Ashton and Ben Foden down really well and deprived them of ball from set-piece and nullified their driving maul. But the job is not done yet, this will be a very tough final."
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