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

Fixture: Leicester Tigers v Northampton Saints

Thursday, 21st March 2019, 12:22 pm
Updated Thursday, 21st March 2019, 12:31 pm
Saints celebrated a long-awaited win at Welford Road last April (picture: Kirsty Edmonds)

Competition: Gallagher Premiership (round 17)

Venue: Welford Road, Leicester

Date and kick-off time: Friday, March 22, 2019, 7.45pm

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Television coverage: BT Sport 1

Referee: Wayne Barnes (212th Premiership game)

Leicester Tigers: Olowofela; Aspland-Robinson, Tuilagi, Eastmond, May; Ford, Harrison; Genge, T Youngs (c), Cole; Spencer, Kitchener; Williams, O'Connor, Thompson.

Replacements: Kerr, Gigena, Heyes, Wells, Fitzgerald, White, Toomua, Owen.

Saints: Tuala; Collins, Hutchinson, Francis, Naiyaravoro; Biggar, Reinach; Van Wyk, Fish, Hill; Moon, Ratuniyarawa; Gibson, Brüssow, Harrison (c).

Replacements: Marshall, Waller, Franks, Craig, Wood, Mitchell, Kellaway, Furbank.

Outs: Saints: Andy Symons (knee), Harry Mallinder (knee), Mikey Haywood (knee), Dylan Hartley (knee), Ehren Painter (calf), Courtney Lawes (calf), Paddy Ryan (knee), James Haskell (toe), Fraser Dingwall (ankle), Luther Burrell (concussion), David Ribbans (ankle).

Most recent meeting: Saturday, January 26, 2019: Saints 47 Leicester Tigers 20 (Premiership Rugby Cup pool stages)

Tom's preview: There may have been scenes of understandable celebration at Franklin's Gardens last Sunday, but Saints must put (most of) the Champagne on ice.

That is because while the Premiership Rugby Cup final success provided plenty of reason to cheer, they know that more huge matches lie in wait over the next few weeks.

They have just five days between the final at Friday's crucial Gallagher Premiership game at Welford Road, where they will lock horns with old rivals Leicester Tigers.

It seems an unfair schedule, especially considering Tigers were able to take last weekend off.

But after Friday's game there is a little more respite for Saints as they have nine days before their Challenge Cup quarter-final trip to Clermont Auvergne.

The big matches just keep coming.

And how sweet the Champagne would taste come the end of the season if they can achieve big things during what remains of this campaign.

They are still just about alive in the their bid to make the Premiership play-offs, but they really must beat Leicester if they are to keep the flame burning.

And while a trip to Clermont is a daunting task, a win at Welford Road would be another big morale boost.

What Saints have to make sure of is that last Sunday's celebrations are not the last of what has been a largely enjoyable season so far.

They will be desperate to take the momentum they've gained from last weekend to Welford Road, where they won in impressive fashion last season.

By doing so, they ended a wait for a victory at Leicester that stretched back to 2007.

They have smashed that hoodoo and they smashed another one last Sunday, ending Saracens' nine-match winning streak against Saints.

Now they have to back it up in another match that really matters.

There is no reason why they can't especially when you consider Tigers have had a really tough time this season.

But Saints must sort out an away record that has seen them win just twice on the road in the league, beating Bristol Bears and Worcester Warriors.

Both of those sides, like Leicester, are currently below Chris Boyd's men in the league.

And Saints will hope to keep it that way by making sure last season's Welford Road success and last Sunday's cup final delight are more than just a flash in the pan.

Tom's prediction: Leicester Tigers 23 Saints 27