Former Saints and Tigers fly-half Lamb says semi-final is too close to call

FORMER SAINT - Ryan Lamb, who also played for Leicester Tigers (below)
FORMER SAINT - Ryan Lamb, who also played for Leicester Tigers (below)

Having played for both Saints and Leicester during the past two seasons, Ryan Lamb is well-placed when it comes to assessing Friday’s Premiership play-off semi-final at Franklin’s Gardens.

The fly-half, who left Saints to join Tigers last summer, joking ‘if you can’t beat them, join them’, is now plying his trade at Worcester Warriors.

Leicester Tigers fly-half Ryan Lamb. Photo: Tiger Images ENGEMN00120141002123227

Leicester Tigers fly-half Ryan Lamb. Photo: Tiger Images ENGEMN00120141002123227

But he knows all about the strength of Leicester, who he made three starts for during the current campaign.

“Having been involved with Leicester this year, they were plagued with injuries from the start and have done very well to come back into it and get third,” said Lamb.

“They’ve seemed to get their big guns back at the right time and they’re going to be strong contenders.

“They’ve had some success at the Gardens in the past few years and they will be going there with their confidence high.

“I was in the squad at the start of the season and when you see the likes of Tom Croft, Steve Mafi and Dan Cole missing then they struggled.

“They had a lot of back rowers out and they struggled at the start of the year, but they’ve got players back now for the run-in and with Manu (Tuilagi) back, he’s a huge asset for them.”

But Lamb is well aware of Saints’ strengths, too, having represented the club 37 times between 2011 and 2013.

And he said: “They’re doing fantastically well.

“They’ve got a squad that’s doing great at the moment. They’re putting teams away and they’re very strong at home.

“If you said at the start of the year that they would get a home semi-final and a final in Europe (the Amlin Challenge Cup) they would have taken it.

“They’re building the side very well. They’ve got a very dangerous backline to go along with their set-piece power, so they’re developing a very good side.”

One of the features of Saints’ impressive season has been the stability provided by Stephen Myler.

Lamb battled it out with the former rugby league player for the 10 shirt at Saints, before the Northampton management decided to put all their eggs in Myler’s basket this season.

And Lamb has been impressed with the results.

“He’s done very well,” said the 27-year-old. “They’ve put their trust in him and said ‘you’re our No.1’.

“He’s paid them back because he’s had a fantastic season.

“They’ve struggled a bit when he’s not played and with him they’ve got a very controlled 10.

“Stevie’s got a bit more freedom to play and also they’ve signed players in the backline to create space.

“He’s picking the right options and his goalkicking percentage has been very high so he’s been a massive factor to them being so successful this year.”

Myler will now look to steer his side to Twickenham at the expense of their local rivals.

And Lamb, whose final Northampton game came in the Premiership final defeat to Leicester at English rugby HQ last May, feels Saints will revel in the home advantage earned by a second-placed finish during the regular season.

“In semi-final rugby, anything can happen,” he said. “The league table has finished with the most consistent teams in the top four.

“It’s going to be a tough one, but I’m sure Saints will be very happy to have home advantage. They’ve got a very good home record.

“But Leicester, when it comes to this time of the year, pride themselves on winning the big games so it’s going to be a very physical and entertaining game at the weekend.

“Full strength they’ve both got massive forward packs and pride themselves on mauling and it’s going to be whoever gets the upper hand in that will get the win on the day.

“It’s going to be an entertaining game for everyone down there and I’m just really looking forward to watching it.