Former Tiger Gibson could hold the key for Saints on derby day

Jamie Gibson (left) is returning to Welford Road for the first time since leaving during the summer (picture: Sharon Lucey)

Jamie Gibson (left) is returning to Welford Road for the first time since leaving during the summer (picture: Sharon Lucey)

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Saints and Leicester have crossed swords enough to know exactly what one another will bring during a derby-day battle.

They know what each other’s strengths and weaknesses are.

They know what they have done well against each other before.

But what they cannot know are things such as the exact preparations the opposition go through and how they are viewed by the men they love to hate.

And for Saints, that is where former Tigers flanker Jamie Gibson comes in.

His mission, should he choose to accept it, is to dish the dirt on his old team, so that Northampton are as prepared as they possibly can be for another trip to Welford Road.

Saints have not won at the home of their arch rivals since 2007, when Mark Robinson’s try helped secure a gritty 10-9 success.

Jim Mallinder has never coached a team to victory at Tigers and, once again, he will be hoping the 80-minute story has a different narrative this time round.

So could Gibson, who moved down the M1 during the summer, be the secret ingredient as Saints bid to cook up a storm on Saturday?

“There’s been a lot of big matches over the past few years and there’s a few little things you can pick out,” Gibson said.

“But realistically it’s about yourself as a team and we have to go out this weekend and play the way we want to play.

“If we can perform the way we want to and put a mark on the game, it’s up to Leicester to react to us. That’s the way they’ll see it.

“Obviously there is some looking at how they’ll do things, but a lot of that will happen in the game and it’s about us focusing on ourselves.”

Gibson has spoken to some of his former Tigers team-mates in the build-up to the game.

And he added: “I’ve obviously got some very good friends over there and I’ll see them after the game.

“You chat as you would do with friends.

“Westy’s (Dorian West) been on my back seeing if I can get any inside information out of those guys and they’ve been doing the same thing.

“But it’s one of the ones where you look forward to seeing each other, you’re playing against each other and it’s rugby first and foremost.

“You see what happens after.”

But is it hard for Gibson to imagine himself in the opposition camp after spending two years at their closest rivals?

“It’s one of those games you look forward to when the fixtures are announced and then you sort of forget about it,” he said.

“When it comes up you just get excited about it and I can’t wait.”

Gibson is fully aware of Saints’ recent record at Welford Road.

And he said: “Various people have been at Northampton a while and I’m not sure any of them have ever won up there.

“Leicester don’t lose many games at home, they haven’t done for a long period of time and especially to Northampton.

“A lot of boys will want to go out, put a marker down and see if they can change that.”