Planet Rugby

Preview: Leicester v Northampton

02nd December 2011 12:18



Starter: Ben Youngs

England scrum-half Ben Youngs will return to the Leicester line-up for Saturday's Aviva Premiership match against Northampton at Welford Road.

Youngs has recovered from a knee injury to make appearances from the bench in the last fortnight and makes his first start in the sell-out clash.

The only other changes from the team that beat Gloucester at Kingsholm last week are in the back-row where Steve Mafi and Julian Salvi are included alongside Thomas Waldrom in place of Tom Croft and Ben Woods.

"It's great to see Ben Youngs back on the field. He's a world-class player and has looked sharp in his work over the last few weeks. Sam Harrison has had a run in the team and has done a really good job too," said director of rugby Richard Cockerill.

"Crofty took a bit of a knock at Gloucester so we've kept him out. It's nothing serious but Steve Mafi has been in good form too and he brings his own strengths to that position."

All 24,000 tickets for the game sold out more than two weeks in advance and a cracking atmosphere is in prospect for the first derby match of the season.

"It's one of those fixtures everyone looks for right at the start of the season, the players love to be involved in the big occasions and both sets of supporters will be up for it too," added Cockerill.

"Saints had a big win last weekend and we know their qualities. We had a good win at Kingsholm and it sets up everything for a big game in front of a capacity crowd on Saturday."

Meanwhile, Saints director of rugby Jim Mallinder said that it will be a difficult challenge for the visitors facing a side on a four-match winning run.

"Going to Leicester is always tough," he explained.

"Since the end of the World Cup they have been playing some good rugby and have got back in the winning habit.

"There are two evenly matched teams and every little competition around the pitch will matter. There will be a lot of passion in the stands - there always is for an East Midlands derby - so for us it's about concentrating on the rugby and getting things right on the field.

"But we are making the trip in a positive frame of mind after a good week of training and a solid performance last weekend. It's all about putting in another performance like that and this is what we've been concentrating on this week."

Form: Leicester Tigers are unbeaten in their last six matches in all competitions since their 3-31 reversal at Scarlets in the Anglo-Welsh Cup on 15 October. Tigers have the worst home record in Aviva Premiership Rugby, having gleaned just three match points from their four games at Welford Road so far. Northampton Saints have won their last four games in the Premiership since their 3-12 defeat at Worcester on 30 September. The Saints only win on the road in the Premiership this season came on 6 November at Wasps. The last five matches between the two teams have all been won by the home side on the day, whilst Northampton's most recent victory at Welford Road was 10-9 on 24 February 2007.

The teams:

Leicester: 15 Geordan Murphy (capt), 14 Horacio Agulla, 13 Matt Smith, 12 Billy Twelvetrees, 11 Alesana Tuilagi, 10 Toby Flood, 9 Ben Youngs, 8 Thomas Waldrom, 7 Julian Salvi, 6 Steve Mafi, 5 George Skivington, 4 Louis Deacon, 3 Dan Cole, 2 George Chuter, 1 Marcos Ayerza.
Replacements: 16 Rob Hawkins, 17 Boris Stankovich, 18 Martin Castrogiovanni, 19 Ed Slater, 20 Ben Woods, 21 Sam Harrison, 22 Jeremy Staunton, 23 Scott Hamilton.

Northampton: 15 Ben Foden, 14 Chris Ashton, 13 George Pisi, 12 Tom May, 11 Jamie Elliott, 10 Ryan Lamb, 9 Lee Dickson, 8 Roger Wilson, 7 Tom Wood, 6 Phil Dowson, 5 Mark Sorenson, 4 Courtney Lawes, 3 Brian Mujati, 2 Dylan Hartley (capt), 1 Soane Tonga'uiha.
Replacements: 16 Mike Haywood, 17 Alex Waller, 18 Paul Doran-Jones, 19 Samu Manoa, 20 Ben Nutley, 21 Martin Roberts, 22 Stephen Myler, 23 Jon Clarke.

Date: Saturday, December 3
Kick-off: 14:15
Venue: Welford Road
Referee: Wayne Barnes

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