Planet Rugby

Preview: Leicester v Northampton

16th March 2012 12:23

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Leicester Northampton comms box

Old rivals: Tigers v Saints

One of the biggest rivalries in British sport will come to Sixways Stadium on Sunday as East Midlands rivals Leicester Tigers and Northampton Saints contest the LV= Cup Final.

It's the first time Tigers and Saints have been in a final together and is the chance to secure a place in the Heineken Cup so it promises to be an afternoon of high intensity rugby.

Leicester Tigers took their place in the final with a never-say-die performance against Bath at the Recreation Ground last weekend, winning 17-16.

Bath had romped through the pool stages, scoring almost seven tries a game, but found themselves locked in a typically hard-fought contest with their old rivals. Eighteen-year-old fly-half, George Ford, kicked four crucial penalties to help earn the win together with an opportunist try in the first half by lock Graham Kitchener.

Northampton progressed to the final with a deserved 27-12 win over Scarlets in a hard-fought game at Franklin's Gardens.

The Welsh side had no answer to Northampton's powerful driving maul, which they set up time and time again to gain metre after metre and lively performances from Alex Waller and Scott Armstrong led to them scoring the only two tries of the game. Fourteen points from the impressive Stephen Myler emphasised Saints' superiority.

In team news, club captain Geordan Murphy returns to lead Leicester.

Murphy leads a team which also includes Thomas Waldrom, Logoviii Mulipola, George Skivington and Matt Smith in changes to the line-up which started against Bath in the semi-final.

Toby Flood, released from the England squad alongside Waldrom earlier this week, is named among the replacements.

"There is a big rivalry between the clubs as such close neighbours, but it is a healthy rivalry because there is a lot of respect for the work of both clubs, " said Tigers director of rugby Richard Cockerill.

"We know each other well, there is a lot of history there, and every game between Leicester and Northampton is a big game.

"The two teams have never met in a cup final before so this promises to be a great occasion for the players and the supporters. It'll be full-blooded and fully committed, and should be a great spectacle."

Meanwhile, Northampton director of rugby Jim Mallinder said the fact that this is the first final between the sides will provide some extra spice.

"When you start the season you only play in three competitions and you set out to win all three," he said.

"Unfortunately we got knocked out of the Heineken Cup so we're left in two. We want to win both of those, and this starts on Sunday with the match against a Leicester team which showed all its qualities in the win down at Bath last weekend.

"Recently they've been playing well in the Premiership and LV= Cup and getting good results. It's going to be a very competitive game, very physical, and tough at the breakdown and set piece.

"But nobody wants to get to a final and lose - it makes for a depressing trip home. You want to get there and win, and that's what we've been focusing on all week."

Rugby Union betting odds

The teams:

Leicester Tigers: 15 Geordan Murphy (c), 14 Horacio Agulla, 13 Matt Smith, 12 Billy Twelvetrees, 11 Scott Hamilton, 10 George Ford, 9 James Grindal, 8 Thomas Waldrom, 7 Craig Newby, 6 Steve Mafi, 5 Graham Kitchener, 4 George Skivington, 3 Logoviii Mulipola, 2 Rob Hawkins, 1 Boris Stankovich.
Replacements: 16 Tom Youngs, 17 Marcos Ayerza, 18 Julian White, 19 Calum Green, 20 Julian Salvi, 21 Scott Steele, 22 Toby Flood, 23 Andy Forsyth.

Northampton Saints: 15 Paul Diggin, 14 Vasily Artemyev, 13 George Pisi, 12 James Downey, 11 Scott Armstrong, 10 Stephen Myler, 9 Martin Roberts, 8 Roger Wilson, 7 Tom Wood, 6 Calum Clark (c), 5 Christian Day, 4 James Craig, 3 Paul Doran Jones, 2 Andy Long, 1 Soane Tonga'uiha.
Replacements: 16 Ross McMillan, 17 Alex Waller, 18 Brian Mujati, 19 Mark Sorenson, 20 Ben Nutley, 21 Ryan Glynn, 22 Ryan Lamb, 23 Tom May.

Date: Sunday, March 18
Venue: Sixways Stadium, Worcester
Kick-off: 15.00 GMT

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