Saints started title party too early, claims Leicester legend Moody

Lewis Moody
Lewis Moody

Not even Leicester Tigers legend Lewis Moody could begrudge Saints a place in the Aviva Premiership final – but he fears their party may have started too soon.

Franklin’s Gardens erupted like a champagne cork when Tom Wood plunged over the line to march the Saints into the Aviva Premiership final at the expense of age-old rivals Leicester two weeks ago.

For so long had Jim Mallinder’s men been the bridesmaids to Leicester’s inexhaustible list of successes; they not only exacted revenge for last year’s Twickenham defeat, but ripped up the Tigers’ nine-year run to the final.

Bringing home the Amlin Challenge Cup from Cardiff Arms Park after victory against Bath last Friday capped off the fairytale week – and Saints fans will be hoping it is a prelude to Saturday’s showdown with Saracens.

But they meet a Sarries side who are licking their wounds after a chastening 23-6 defeat to Toulon in their own European final at the weekend.

And Moody is concerned Northampton may have hit a mental peak after their outpouring of emotion over the last week.

“I’m amazed that they managed to beat Leicester, especially as they went down to 14 men – for all intents and purposes Leicester looked like they had closed the game out,” said Moody.

“They showed tenacity and maybe desperation after being beaten in semi-finals and of course the final in that game last year.

“You saw what it meant to Jim Mallinder when the final whistle went, knowing now they all have the ability to win such a big game.

“The only worry that I had with Northampton was the way they celebrated that win like that was a final, doing a lot of hugging and kissing people in the crowd.

“I totally understand the emotion of winning but sometimes when I see that it makes me nervous – they may have expended a lot of their emotional energy when there’s a final still to win.

“It really was one of the most fierce battles I’ve seen and one you really wish you could have been a part of.”

Moody’s Tigers career spanned 14 years and seven Premiership trophies – while Saints are eyeing up their first-ever triumph.

And according to the former England captain, it won’t just be the clash between two Red Rose rivals, fly-halves Stephen Myler and Owen Farrell, that will decide the contest.

Moody singled out scrum-half Lee Dickson as the man to release George North and company from their traps should Mallinder plump for the England international over Kahn Fotuali’i.

“I think Myler steers the Northampton ship, he is a really steady performer and him and Owen are very different in terms of their character and the way they play the game,” he added.

“Myler is a calm character, he is not that physical or confrontational and leads in that manner whereas Owen is completely the opposite in defence and attack.

“It will be an interesting battle and you look at the arsenal Myler can call upon, Luther Burrell, the Pisi brothers, Ben Foden, George North and I wonder what they will do at scrum-half between Fotuali’i and Dickson.

“I think they will go Dickson, he came on and had an outstanding game against Leicester and gave quick front-foot ball to make a really big impact.

“He’s not the attacking threat that Fotuali’i is by himself but it a lot opens up with Dickson to bring the likes of North into the game.”

Lewis Moody is a Land Rover ambassador. Land Rover supports grassroots rugby and provides the opportunity for 7000 youngsters to take part in the Land Rover Premiership Rugby Cup.