Hopeful Sarries head to Welford Road
May 7, 2010
Martin Castrogiovanni returns for Leicester © Getty Images
Saracens travel to face table-topping Leicester in the final round of the Guinness Premiership's regular season, with Brendan Venter's men hoping to secure a home semi-final.
The Tigers have already secured a Welford Road date in the last four and while Sarries will be present in the post-season to take on Northampton, the venue for their semi-final clash remains up for grabs. The Saints are two points clear in second and face London Irish this weekend, so even with a victory in front of Leicester's vociferous home support Sarries must hope for the Exiles to do them a favour.
Chris Wyles returns at fullback in place of Alex Goode, whose broken thumb is not expected to rule him out of the knockout stages. Also in the back-three there is a start for wing Richard Haughton.
"We're in a good position of going to Leicester knowing that we have already secured a place in the semi-finals," a philosophical Venter said. "We know we are playing Northampton Saints - it's just a case of where. We will go to Welford Road looking to win the game and then we will see what happens. We have said all season that Leicester are a side that sets the trend and the game will be a good test for us to see how far we have come."
Leicester have been boosted by the return of winger Alesana Tuilagi from injury and there is further good news as Jordan Crane is fit to start at No.8. Jeremy Staunton starts at No.10 in the absence of Toby Flood, with Sam Vesty having proved his fitness in an 'A' league game to take a place on the bench. In the pack, hooker George Chuter and tight-head Martin Castrogiovanni return.
"Saracens are a good team, they're well coached and they've had some good results, especially in the win at Northampton," Tigers boss Richard Cockerill said. "They could still finish second and take a home semi-final too. But we have everything to play for as well because we want to go into the semi-finals on a good run and with a bit of confidence, and that comes from winning games and performing at your best."
Leicester: Geordan Murphy (capt); Scott Hamilton, Matt Smith, Anthony Allen, Alesana Tuilagi; Jeremy Staunton, Ben Youngs; Marcos Ayerza, George Chuter, Martin Castrogiovanni, Geoff Parling, Ben Kay, Tom Croft, Lewis Moody, Craig Newby
Replacements: Joe Duffey, Dan Cole, Boris Stankovich, Jordan Crane, Ben Woods, James Grindal, Sam Vesty, Johne Murphy
Saracens: Chris Wyles; Richard Haughton, Adam Powell, Brad Barritt, Michael Tagicakibau; Glen Jackson, Neil de Kock; Matias Aguero, Schalk Brits, Petrus du Plessis, Hugh Vyvyan, Mouritz Botha, Jacques Burger, Andy Saull, Ernst Joubert
Replacements: Fabio Ongaro, Rhys Gill, Richard Skuse, Tom Ryder, Justin Melck, Moses Rauluni, Derick Hougaard, Kameli Ratuvou
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