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Preview: Northampton v Leicester

13th April 2012 12:08

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Ben Youngs Phil Dowson Northampton Leicester 2012

Back to face Saints: Ben Youngs

England international scrum-half Ben Youngs returns to Leicester's line-up for Saturday's Aviva Premiership trip to neighbours Northampton.

Both teams are coming into the game on the back of a string of positive performances and results, and with just three rounds of Aviva Premiership remaining are very much in the hunt not just for a play-off spot but a home semi-final as well.

Youngs missed the bonus-point win over Worcester Warriors in the team's last outing as he served a one-week suspension and he is re-united with international colleague Toby Flood at half-back.

Horacio Agulla, George Skivington and Geoff Parling are included in the team after missing the Worcester fixture.

"Tigers versus Saints is always a big match, no matter what is at stake. Both teams are chasing a place in the semi-finals and this promises to be another big occasion," said Tigers director of rugby Richard Cockerill.

"These are two good set-piece teams, with two good sets of backs, and these games have been great contests."

Meanwhile, there is just one change to the Saints starting XV with Samu Manoa replacing Mark Sorenson in the second row.

"It's a big game," said Northampton director of rugby Jim Mallinder.

"Obviously Leicester are our local rivals, but we know that we've got three games to go in the regular season and we want to win all three to give us a chance of a home semi-final. That's what we're aiming for and I'm sure that everyone's going to be up for Saturday's game.

"We've certainly been focused solely on tomorrow's game this week and have not been talking about what has gone before.

"We've trained hard and have prepared for what's going to come at us on Saturday. Leicester are physical up front and love the set piece, but they like to play a bit too and get on the front foot. So we'll have to be at the top of our game."

Form: Northampton Saints' only defeat in their last five Aviva Premiership matches was 12-18 at Saracens on 4 March. Saints only home defeat in the Premiership this season came at the hands of London Irish on 17 September. Leicester Tigers have recorded four successive maximum point hauls tying the Premiership record held by three clubs (Wasps, Bristol and Leicester themselves). The Tigers have lost just once in the competition since round 6: 11-19 at Exeter on 11 February. The Tigers have won their last four encounters with the Saints in all competitions, but have not been victorious at Franklin's Gardens since 14 October 2006.

Rugby Union betting odds

The teams:

Northampton:15 Ben Foden, 14 Chris Ashton, 13 George Pisi, 12 James Downey, 11 Paul Diggin, 10 Ryan Lamb, 9 Lee Dickson (capt), 8 Roger Wilson, 7 Phil Dowson, 6 James Craig, 5 Christian Day, 4 Samu Manoa, 3 Brian Mujati, 2 Andy Long, 1 Soane Tonga'uiha.
Replacements: 16 Ross McMillan, 17 Alex Waller, 18 Paul Doran-Jones, 19 Mark Sorenson,20 Ben Nutley, 21 Martin Roberts, 22 Stephen Myler, 23 Tom May.

Leicester Tigers: 15 Geordan Murphy (c), 14 Horacio Agulla, 13 Manusamoa Tuilagi, 12 Anthony Allen, 11 Alesana Tuilagi, 10 Toby Flood, 9 Ben Youngs, 8 Thomas Waldrom, 7 Julian Salvi, 6 Tom Croft, 5 Geoff Parling, 4 George Skivington, 3 Dan Cole, 2 George Chuter, 1 Marcos Ayerza
Replacements: 16 Tom Youngs, 17 Martin Castrogiovanni, 18 Logovi'i Mulipola, 19 Steve Mafi, 20 Craig Newby, 21 Sam Harrison, 22 Billy Twelvetrees, 23 Scott Hamilton.

Date: Saturday, April 14
Venue: Franklin's Gardens,
Kick-off: 14.15 BST (13.15 GMT)
Referee: Dave Pearson

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PosTeamPPts
1Saracens1976
2Northampton1966
3Leicester Tigers1963
4Bath1959
5Harlequins1954