Tom Vickers' Leicester Tigers v Northampton Saints preview
Fixture: Leicester Tigers v Northampton Saints (Anglo-Welsh Cup - game three)
Date and kick-off time: Saturday, January 28, 2017, 3pm
Venue: Welford Road, Leicester
Leicester Tigers: Tait (c); Brady, Roberts, Smith, Catchpole; Williams, Kitto; Rizzo, H Thacker, Balmain; Wells, Barrow; Croft, Evans, Hamilton.
Replacements: McGuigan, Brugnara, Betts, Maksymiw, Owen, White, Worth, C Thacker.
Saints: Tuala; K Pisi, Tuitavake, Mallinder, Estelles; Olver, Kessell; E Waller, Clare, Brookes; Ribbans, Day (c); Gibson, Nutley, Dickinson.
Replacements: Fish, A Waller, Hill, Paterson, Ludlam, Dickson, Hutchinson, Wilson.
Outs: Saints: Tom Stephenson (leg), Calum Clark (knee), Jamie Elliott (shoulder), JJ Hanrahan (hand), Dylan Hartley, Courtney Lawes, Tom Wood, Teimana Harrison, Louis Picamoles, George North (international duty)
Referee: Dan Jones
Most recent meeting: Saturday, December 3, 2016: Leicester Tigers 19 Saints 11 (Aviva Premiership)
Tom’s preview: If not now, when?
That will surely be the feeling of Saints fans heading to Welford Road on Saturday.
Those Saints fans will have seen Leicester’s crushing 43-0 defeat at home to Glasgow Warriors last weekend.
They will have seen the uncertainty that is currently residing up the road.
And they will have seen a few more positive signs from their own team in recent weeks.
So surely now is the time for Saints to end a horror run of winless matches at Welford Road?
Not since February, 2007 have Northampton marched to Leicester and won.
Saints have drawn there, in October, 2013, but they have not emerged victorious.
And though some may belittle this meeting due to the fact it’s in the Anglo-Welsh Cup rather than the Aviva Premierhsip or Champions Cup, don’t doubt what it means to the fans.
They would love to rub salt in the wounds of their rivals.
And they would love to see their team put an end to that near 10-year winless streak at Welford Road.
With the squad containing several Academy graduates, there is a real sense of how vital east midlands matches are.
And though they have endured a tough season of their own, Saints do go into this game more stable than their familiar foes.
They won four games in a row before producing a defent performance in defeat against a largely full-strength Montpellier team last weekend.
So they can take confidence into Saturday’s showdown.
Leicester, on the other hand, have lost five games in a row, shipping a total of 77 points in their past two matches.
That means they will be hurting and desperate to see off Saints as they bid to begin turning the tide this weekend.
But Saints have to ensure that does not happen.
And if they can, then they can finally walk out of Welford Road with that winning feeling.
How sweet that would be for the club’s players and supporters after so many years of Tigers-induced disappointment.
Tom’s prediction: Leicester 20 Saints 24