Five reasons why...will win the Premiership
May 25, 2012
Chris Robshaw and Geordan Murphy face off ahead of the final but who will be lifting the trophy come 5pm? © Getty Images for Aviva
Harlequins and Leicester Tigers go head-to-head in the Aviva Premiership final on Saturday - but who will triumph in the battle for English rugby's top prize?
Ahead of the clash, we offer five reasons why Harlequins will win their maiden title and from Leicester Tigers' point of view, why Richard Cockerill's side will be celebrating lifting their eighth Premiership trophy.
Five reasons why Harlequins will win the Aviva Premiership
Ever since round three, Quins have topped the Premiership table. Conor O'Shea's brilliant game and man management has kept the team firing all season and despite them losing a host of stars during the Six Nations, they retained the top spot and have shown impressive consistency. On the European stage they have gone to places such as Toulouse and come away with the win so they are also used to summoning a big game mentality. Expect that to be harnassed come Saturday.
England captain and Harlequins openside Chris Robshaw has been the headline-grabber for Quins this season but he has had some very useful lieutenants alongside him. Fellow England squad members Joe Marler, Danny Care and Mike Brown have had brilliant seasons with Jordan Turner Hall and George Lowe forming a formidable centre partnership. And then there's the forgotten man of English rugby Nick Easter at the back of the scrum - he has been sensational throughout the campaign.
It's at Twickenham
The stadium is within hopping distance of their traditional home at The Stoop and Quins are likely to have the majority of supporters behind them in HQ. They have played twice at Twickenham this term and have come away with a win and a loss but they will try and harness the same sort of mentality that saw them defeat Saracens at Wembley back in March as they gate-crashed the reigning champions' party with a powerful performance winning 24-19.
Leicester's previous record in finals
Leicester have won just three of the last eight finals they have contested in all competitions and just two of their last seven visits to Twickenham. While statistics and previous records coaches claim are irrelevant for finals, if the Quins side want a pick-me-up ahead of the match, then it is facts like this that will be pinned up on their changing room wall.
They have Nick Evans
The New Zealand fly-half took the RPA Players' Player of the Year award on Wednesday night and he has consistently been the best in his position in the Premiership. While Toby Flood and Owen Farrell may question that statement, Evans has been simply sublime in the way he has guided Quins to the summit of the Premiership and has the ability to change the game at the blink of an eye.
Five reasons why Leicester will win the Aviva Premiership
They've been here before...quite a few times actually
This is now their eighth consecutive Premiership final. While they have lost four of the last seven, they know what it takes to cope with big match occasions such as this. The likes of Alesana Tuilagi, Geordan Murphy and George Chuter are veritable finale veterans so expect their influence to pay dividends against the relative inexperience of the Harlequins side.
They have hit superb form at just the right time and they love bonus points. In their final seven games of the season - which they won - they also secured six four-try bonus points. Harlequins' defence better be on its 'A' game as if the match opens out into an expansive tussle then expect the Tigers to get the benefit of territory on the wings.
Time to make amends
Last year they came within a whisker of snatching victory from the jaws of defeat when they laid siege on the Saracens line in added time for what seemed like an eternity. Saracens held on and took the Premiership title, but that would have hurt Richard Cockerill et al. That final will be brought up in the pre-match talk so the Tigers should be firing on all cylinders when Wayne Barnes blows the whistle to start the game.
They won the game of the season
In the penultimate round of the regular season, Leicester travelled to The Stoop to face Harlequins. It proved to be the best match of the whole 2011-12 campaign. In a match of seven tries, Leicester beat Quins on their own patch 43-33 in a performance of breathtaking attacking relentless rugby.
Bidding farewell to a club legend
Saturday's game will be the last time Samoan behemoth Alesana Tuilagi turns out for the Tigers. He is off to Japan chasing the Yen but he will want to bring down the curtain on his time in the red, green and white of Leicester with a winner's medal. Horacio Agulla will also be playing for the Tigers for the last time so both wingers will look to cross the line come Saturday. When the pair are on their game, there are few better in the Premiership.
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