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Preview: Northampton v Leicester

28th March 2014 11:37

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tom wood northampton saints

Number eight: Tom Wood

Northampton Saints coaches have made three changes to the starting line-up for Saturday's Aviva Premiership East Midlands derby.

The Saints host Leicester at a sold-out Franklin's Gardens looking to regain the momentum that saw the team achieve a club record 13 successive victories between mid-December and mid-March.

Two of the changes are in the back line, where George Pisi returns at outside centre and Kahn Fotuali'i partnering Will Hooley in the half-backs.

Up front Phil Dowson comes into the back row, with Tom Wood moving to number eight. Ethan Waller rejoins the replacements' bench.

Meanwhile, Leicester make just two changes to the squad for the clash at Franklin's Gardens.

Fourth in the Aviva Premiership table, level on 54 points with third-placed Bath, Tigers go into the East Midlands derby against a Saints side sitting in second place on 64 points.

In the only changes to the matchday squad following last Sunday's 45-15 win against Exeter, Mathew Tait returns at full-back and there is a place among the replacements for back-rower Pablo Matera.

Second-rower Ed Slater leads the team as captain while number eight Jordan Crane makes his 100th Premiership start for the club.

"As much as the rivalry is intense, we know Saints are a good club," said Leicester boss Richard Cockerill.

"They have been in good form this season, they're in a good spot in the league and we need to go there and thrown everything at them.

"It's a big game for everyone but they're the ones you look forward to playing in.

"The performance against Exeter last week was a real positive and it was obviously important to get the maximum points, but we won't be getting carried away. We know where we need to be better."

Form: Northampton Saints have lost their last two games, to Exeter in the Anglo-Welsh Cup final, and at Sale in Aviva Premiership Rugby, but have not lost three successive first team fixtures since November 2012. The Saints only defeat at Franklin's Gardens since Leicester last visited 12 months ago was to Leinster in the Heineken Cup in December. Leicester Tigers are the current form team in the Premiership having gained 24 league points from their last six matches and are unbeaten in the competition since they visited Saracens on 21 December. Leicester are undefeated in their last nine encounters with Northampton in all tournaments since the Saints won 27-19 at Franklin's Gardens in the Premriship in the opening round of the 2010/11 season. The Tigers have won on their last two visits to Northampton but have not won three in a row at the venue since 2002.

The teams:

Northampton: 15 Ben Foden, 14 Jamie Elliott, 13 George Pisi, 12 Luther Burrell, 11 George North, 10 Will Hooley, 9 Kahn Fotuali'i, 8 Tom Wood, 7 Phil Dowson, 6 Calm Clark, 5 Christian Day, 4 Courtney Lawes, 3 Salesi Ma'afu, 2 Dylan Hartley (c), 1 Alex Waller
Replacements: 16 Mike Haywood, 17 Ethan Waller, 18 Tom Mercey, 19 James Craig, 20 GJ Van Velze, 21 Lee Dickson, 22 James Wilson, 23 Ken Pisi

Leicester: 15 Mathew Tait, 14 Vereniki Goneva, 13 Manu Tuilagi, 12 Anthony Allen, 11 Adam Thompstone, 10 Owen Williams, 9 Ben Youngs, 8 Jordan Crane, 7 Julian Salvi, 6 Jamie Gibson, 5 Ed Slater (c), 4 Louis Deacon, 3 Logovii Mulipola, 2 Tom Youngs, 1 Marco Ayerza
Replacements: 16 Rob Hawkins, 17 Boris Stankovich, 18 Fraser Balmain, 19 Graham Kitchener, 20 Pablo Matera, 21 David Mele, 22 Toby Flood, 23 Scott Hamilton

Date: Saturday, March 29
Kick-off: 15:15 GMT
Venue: Franklin's Gardens
Referee: Wayne Barnes
Assistant Referees: Roger Bailiff, Gordon Goodliffe
TMO: Trevor Fisher

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