Leicester Tigers v Northampton Saints: Tom Vickers' big match preview

Fixture: Leicester Tigers v Northampton Saints

Friday, 23rd April 2021, 12:15 pm
Updated Friday, 23rd April 2021, 12:16 pm
Alex Mitchell in action for Saints against Leicester at Welford Road back in September

Competition: Gallagher Premiership (round 17)

Venue: Welford Road, Leicester

Date and kick-off time: Saturday, April 24, 2021, 3pm

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Weather: 15c, mostly cloudy

Live television coverage: BT Sport 3

Leicester Tigers: Steward; van Wyk, Scott, Kelly, Murimurivalu; Ford, B Youngs; Genge, T Youngs (c), Cole; Wells, Green; Liebenberg, Wallace, Wiese.

Replacements: Clare, de Bruin, Heyes, Lavanini, Brink, van Poortvliet, Henry, Nadolo.

Saints: Furbank; Proctor, Hutchinson, Francis, Sleightholme; Biggar, Mitchell; Waller (cc), Matavesi, Painter; Ribbans, Moon; Wood, Ludlam (cc), Harrison.

Replacements: Haywood, Auterac, Hill, Coles, Adendorff, James, Tuala, Freeman.

Outs: Saints: Nick Isiekwe (pectoral), Taqele Naiyaravoro (calf), Owen Franks (foot), Danny Hobbs-Awoyemi (Achilles), Courtney Lawes (pectoral), Api Ratuniyarawa (shoulder), Ryan Olowofela (ankle), Kayde Sylvester (Achilles).

Most recent meeting: Sunday, September 13, 2020: Leicester Tigers 28 Saints 24 (Gallagher Premiership)

Tom's preview: While this weekend's game at Welford Road isn't a knockout game like the many Saints and Leicester have done battle in before, it feels a little bit like it.

Because, with just six regular-season games to go, both sides know a slip-up could be so costly.

Especially Tigers, who are currently eighth, eight points behind Saints and 12 back from fourth.

If Chris Boyd can mastermind a win at Leicester this weekend, that is surely it for Steve Borthwick's men in terms of top-four hopes.

And it would be a significant boost for Saints, who are just four points away from Sale and Harlequins at this moment in time.

The players and coaches of both clubs know very well that there are more than just bragging rights on offer this weekend.

Saints can land a knockout blow against their rivals, who, in turn, can put a real spanner in the works of the men from Franklin's Gardens.

It is set up perfectly, especially when you consider how poorly Saints played when they last visited Welford Road back in September.

Here's what Boyd said after seeing his side lose 28-24 to Leicester on that day: "That's probably the worst performance I think we've had in the time that I've been here.

"It was embarrassing and the boys are rightfully embarrassed.

"They've got to take it on the chin.

"There was not one part of that performance that we could hang our hat on and be proud about.

"At least in the previous couple of games with this side we'd muscled up, not quite got it right and made a few mistakes.

"But today it was just an embarrassing performance.

"We're apologetic to our supporters and to the club.

"It's way, way short of what we expect from this group."

And there is no doubt that the players and coaches will remind themselves of what they expect this time round.

They have a chance to put it right and continue to put themselves right in the play-off mix.

But they will be well aware that Leicester have come a long way since September.

They are now a far more steely side, who came so close to winning at Bath last weekend.

The Tigers have won their past six home games in all competitions, booking their place in the Challenge Cup semi-finals in the process.

They play Ulster next weekend and Saints will hope they may have one eye on that match.

But that is unlikely, with derby-day always dominating the East Midlands agenda.

And so Saints will have to get the job done the hard way.

They will need the kind of flair that has seen them rack up an eye-watering 176 points in their past four matches, an average of 44 points per game.

But they will also need more resilience than they showed in the 44-26 win against London Irish last Friday.

Boyd has already warned his players they will 'get murdered' at Leicester if they replicate that, at times, flaky defensive showing.

So Saints can't say they haven't been told.

Now they must translate words into action once more as they seek to not only get one over on their old rivals but build the consistency they crave for a top-four finish.

Tom's prediction: There is no doubt that Tigers will be a tough proposition on home turf, but Saints have the attacking players to get the job done here and I'm backing them to edge it. Leicester 27 Saints 32.