Leicester and Sarries renew hostilties
September 22, 2011
Ed Slater's try helped Leicester claim their first win of the season, at Kingston Park last weekend © Getty Images
Leicester Tigers will be hoping to exact a modicum of revenge when they face their conquerors in last season's Aviva Premiership Final, Saracens, at Welford Road on Saturday.
Leicester finally got their campaign up and running last weekend by edging Newcastle Falcons at Kingston Park, having opened with a shock defeat at home to Exeter before being outgunned by Wasps at Adams Park the following weekend. Victory over Sarries this weekend would prove that the Tigers are finally moving in the right direction again.
However, Sarries will no doubt be smelling blood. Like Leicester, they also suffered defeat on the opening day but they have bounced back from their loss to Wasps at Twickenham by racking up back-to-back wins over Bath and Worcester. They have yet to hit top form themselves but it would be a surprise if Saturday's clash with their biggest rivals does not bring the best out of the reigning champions - and vice versa.
Leicester Tigers - Player to Watch: Graham Kitchener makes his first-start for the Tigers and will look to put down a marker with the likes of Louis Deacon plying their trade in the southern hemisphere. The England Saxons lock arrived in the summer from Worcester and he is someone to watch
Leicester Tigers - Team News: Kitchener comes into the side for George Skirvington as one of three changes in the pack. Thomas Waldrom has been despatched to New Zealand so Ben Woods comes in at openside with on-loan prop Michael Holdford starting in the front-row. Matt Smith returns on the wing. On the bench is former England international Mathew Tait and he will hope to make his first appearance for the club.
Saracens - Player to Watch: Following Brendan Venter's public backing for Brad Barritt this week, the England-qualified centre will look to put down a marker to show Martin Johnson what he is missing out on.
Saracens - Team News: Brits misses out on the match after suffering a heavy knock last weekend - Jamie George comes into the side at hooker. Harry Allen will look to deputise from the bench while Will Fraser and Jackson Wray are named in the back-row with Justin Melck ruled out and Andy Saull named on the bench. In the only other change to the XV, Owen Farrell starts in the centres alongside Barritt with Adam Powell on the bench. George Kruis also finds himself in the replacements in place of Hugh Vyvyan.
Key Battle: George Chuter is up against Jamie George in the hooker department. Schalk Brits was an injury worry going into the clash and Mark McCall has backed George to prevail against the experienced Chuter in the battle of the line-out mindgames.
Trivia: Another Saracens win would tie the all-time Premiership record for successive away victories, currently held by Leicester with eight set over the Millennium period.
Stats: Last season Saracens won all three encounters with the Tigers - the first side to beat Leicester three times in the same season since Moseley did so in 1976-77.
"While there is a salary cap, you can't use the compensation you get paid to extend the salary cap. When you have that many English players in your squad, it makes things very difficult. And we made five of those guys with England who have come through our academy. It's not like we brought them in, knowing we might lose them. We may have to look forward and re-jig our recruitment policy."
"Johnson and Smith actually left behind their two best options at inside centre. Riki Flutey - who narrowly missed out on selection having played against Wales in a warm-up match - and Brad Barritt, who plays for my club Saracens. Flutey offers more than just a bludgeon. He has quick feet and runs beautiful lines off his fly-half. Barritt is a superb all-round player who has the perfect balance of penetrative running, soft hands and solid defence. I have played in two World Cups at centre and I would much rather defend against Tindall or Hape than against Flutey or Barritt. "
Prediction: In a closely fought match, the Tigers will make amends for their 2011 Premiership final loss with the narrowest of margins.
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