Preview: Leicester v Northampton

Date published: May 15 2015

An East Midlands derby to finish the season as Leicester aim to continue their long play-off run with a win enough to make the top four.

Northampton could deny their local rivals, but having already secured top spot, Jim Mallinder has taken the decision to keep his big guns fresh, naming a second string side at Welford Road.

Saints have had the edge over the Tigers in recent times, notably winning with 14 men earlier in the season after Dylan Hartley's red card.

It would be a shock to see them do it again here though, with the likes of Courtney Lawes, Tom Wood, Calum Clark, Steven Myler and Luther Burrell and the Pisi brothers all rested.

Hartley is on the bench, and while there is still a lot of experience in the Saints pack, Leicester will fancy their chances after last week's crucial win over Wasps.

The Tigers have made the play-offs every season since 2004, and a win would be enough to finish third, regardless of what Saracens or Exeter do on the final weekend because Leicester have won more games this campaign.

Last week's success over Wasps was arguably their best performance of the season, as they outscored their hosts three tries to one despite the sending off of Seremaia Bai in the first half.

Their attacking ability has been blunted this season though, with only London Welsh scoring fewer tries, although a weakened Saints team will give them the chance to correct that.

If they do win, a trip to Bath awaits, as they look to get back to the Premiership final after what has been a difficult season.

They welcome back Ed Slater for his first start of the season, while Christian Loamanu will also make his first start in place of the suspended Bai, but otherwise it's the same team that beat Wasps.

Form: It's likely that Leicester Tigers will need a victory to reach the Aviva Premiership Rugby semi-finals for an 11th straight year, as Exeter and Saracens could both win their round 22 encounters. The Tigers have lost only one of their last eight Premiership Rugby encounters: 6-22 at Saracens in round 19, whilst their only reversal at Welford Road in the tournament since November 2013 came when London Irish were the visitors on 27th September. Northampton Saints have confirmed their position as number one seeds for the first time and will play in a sixth successive semi-final. The Saints only defeat in the last eight rounds of Aviva Premiership Rugby was 10-21 at Exeter on 12th April. The two sides have already met at Welford Road this season with Leicester coming out on top in a pool game in the Anglo-Welsh Cup in January. In Premiership Rugby the Tigers have won just one of their last four fixtures with the Saints: 22-16 at Franklin’s Gardens in March 2014, whilst their most recent clash at Welford Road was a 19-all draw on 5th October 2013.

The teams:

Leicester: 15 Niall Morris, 14 Vereniki Goneva, 13 Mathew Tait, 12 Christian Loamanu, 11 Adam Thompstone, 10 Freddie Burns, 9 Ben Youngs (c), 8 Jordan Crane, 7 Julian Salvi, 6 Ed Slater, 5 Graham Kitchener, 4 Brad Thorn, 3 Dan Cole, 2 Tom Youngs, 1 Logovi'i Mulipola
Replacements: 16 Harry Thacker, 17 Marcos Ayerza, 18 Fraser Balmain, 19 Sebastian De Chaves, 20 Jamie Gibson, 21 Sam Harrison, 22 Tommy Bell, 23 Jack Roberts

Northampton: 15 Ahsee Tuala, 14 Jamie Elliott, 13 Dom Waldouck, 12 Tom Stephenson, 11 Tom Collins, 10 James Wilson, 9 Lee Dickson, 8 Jon Fisher, 7 Teimana Harrison, 6 Phil Dowson (c), 5 James Craig, 4 Sam Dickinson, 3 Salesi Ma’afu, 2 Mike Haywood, 1 Alex Corbisiero 
Replacements: 16 Dylan Hartley, 17 Alex Waller, 18 Gareth Denman, 19 Christian Day, 20 Ben Nutley, 21 Kahn Fotuali’i, 22 Sam Olver, 23 Howard Packman

Date: Saturday, May 16
Kick-off: 15:30 BST
Venue: Welford Road
Referee: Matthew Carley
Assistant Referees: Tim Wigglesworth, Peter Huckle
TMO: Rowan Kitt