Tom Vickers’ Northampton Saints v Leicester Tigers preview
Talent? Tick. Experience? Tick. Partisan home crowd? Tick. Belief? To be confirmed.
Saints have the ingredients they will need to end a horror run against their rivals this weekend. But they will have to believe.
Believe that there won’t be a repeat of last May’s Aviva Premiership final
Believe that, this time, unlike the last time – at Welford Road in October – there will be no Tigers comeback.
Believe they can send their supporters home with a smile on their faces and a reason to look forward to work on Monday.
Sounds simple, doesn’t it?
Well, not quite. The Tigers have an innate belief that they won’t be beaten, a confidence reinforced by a run of five successive wins.
They come good at this time of the season, they say.
And they aren’t wrong.
When it comes to timing late runs, Richard Cockerill’s men are in the same bracket as Mo Farah.
But Saints have the speed and the strength to stop them in their tracks.
Looking at the starting 15s of the two sides, how many Tigers players would you take?
Jim Mallinder has formed a fearsome 15 capable of competing with Europe’s elite, as shown in the memorable victory at Leinster back in December.
But fail to play to their potential and the consequences could be devastating, just as they were a year ago, when Tigers ran riot at the Gardens.
It’s about having a swagger that Saints have had so often on their own turf this season.
They have won all eight of their league games at the Gardens, scoring 30 points or more on six of those occasions and cruising past Saracens, Bath and Harlequins among others.
Leicester is the final really big hurdle. The one Saints really want to clear.
They have stored up the hurt of previous games that haven’t gone their way. They’ve got the experience of big games against big sides.
And they’ve got a fervent home crowd who will be backing them every step of the way.
Now what they need is that belief, that strut and that poise to execute a first success against Tigers since September, 2010.
Can they do it? You better believe it.