Stage set for Welford Road showdown
December 2, 2011
Toby Flood and Ben Youngs preview their potentially epic clash with the Saints%]
The resurgent Leicester Tigers tackle the in-form Northampton Saints at Welford Road on Saturday afternoon in what promises to be the Premiership clash of the weekend.
Leicester remain a lowly tenth in the table but they are very much moving in the right direction again after a dreadful start to the season. The Tigers, buoyed by the return of their international contingent from the World Cup, are now undefeated in their last six games in all competitions and are just four points adrift of the fourth-placed Saints.
Northampton also struggled during the World Cup but they have now won four on the bounce in the Premiership and looked hugely impressive in dismantling champions Saracens at Franklin's Gardens last weekend.
Leicester Tigers - Player to Watch: Scrum-half Ben Youngs returns to the starting line-up to complete his comeback from a knee injury - can he inspire a victory for the Tigers?
Leicester Tigers - Team News: Youngs reclaims the No.9 shirt having appeared off the bench in the Tigers' last two games. The only other changes from the team that beat Gloucester at Kingsholm last week are in the back-row where Steve Mafi and Julian Salvi are included alongside Thomas Waldrom in place of Tom Croft and Ben Woods.
Northampton Saints - Player to Watch: The boot of fly-half Ryan Lamb tormented Saracens last time out but can he outshine England No.10 Toby Flood on his own patch?
Northampton Saints - Team News: Northampton make two changes to the side that started against Sarries last time out with Tom May coming in at inside centre for James Downey and Brian Mujati getting the nod at tight-head instead of Paul Doran Jones.
Key Battle: Saints currently have the best defence in the Premiership while Leicester have the second worst although they have only leaked one try in their last three games. But whose defence will hold up in the intensity of an East Midlands derby?
Trivia: The last five clashes between these two have been won by the home side on the day
Stats: Northampton fly-half Stephen Myler has the best kicking percentage in the league, 90%, and has nailed his last ten strikes on goal
"It's one of those fixtures everyone looks for right at the start of the season, the players love to be involved in the big occasions and both sets of supporters will be up for it too."
"There are two evenly matched teams and every little competition around the pitch will matter."
Prediction: The last time these two sides met at Welford Road there were plenty of fireworks on and off the pitch - expect more of the same and Northampton to bring an end to their rivals' recent revival with a narrow win.
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
He teed up Obolensky's try, fought in Burma and played cricket for Warwickshire - we Rewind to look at the story of Peter Cranmer
With the World Cup just a year away, Tom Hamilton picks out five matches to ensure you have tickets for
Ahead of November's USA-All Blacks match, America's ESPN Magazine explains rugby to its readers who may not be familiar with the game
Tom Hamilton talks to World Cup-winning captain John Smit about life after rugby, his fears over the South African exodus and the World Cup