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Preview: Leicester v Saracens

22nd February 2013 10:42

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Tom Croft Leicester Saracens

Back for Tigers: Tom Croft

Geordan Murphy and Tom Croft return to the Leicester Tigers line-up for Saturday's Premiership clash with Saracens at Welford Road.

Full-back Murphy makes his 297th starting appearance for the club and is named as captain for a game which sees third-placed Tigers face a Saracens team just one place and one point ahead of them.

Croft returns to the Tigers back-row, while Ed Slater takes over from Louis Deacon at lock. Matt Smith, Dan Bowden and George Ford return to the backline this weekend.

"We weren't far away at Quins last week, we defended very well and scored two good tries, and this is another important game against another good side who are just above us in the table," said Tigers director of rugby Richard Cockerill.

Tigers have eight players on Six Nations duty this week, while Louis Deacon, Anthony Allen, Niall Morris, Boris Stankovich and Steve Mafi are unavailable due to injury.

Meanwhile, Sarries welcome back Chris Wyles and Schalk Brits after missing last week's 31-11 victory over Exeter Chiefs.

Rhys Gill also returns to the front-row and Alistair Hargreaves also starts to partner Steve Borthwick in the second-row.

Form: Leicester Tigers' five game winning run in Aviva Premiership Rugby ended on Saturday with their defeat at champions Harlequins. Tigers have lost only one game in any competition at Welford Road since October 2011: 9-22 to Harlequins on 22 September. Saracens solitary defeat in their last ten encounters in all competitions since early December was 16-29 at London Irish on 9 February. The two clubs drew 9-all when they met at Wembley Stadium in round three, whilst Saracens have won their last three matches at Welford Road in the regular season.

The teams:

Leicester Tigers: 15 Geordan Murphy (c), 14 Scott Hamilton, 13 Matt Smith, 12 Dan Bowden, 11 Adam Thompstone, 10 George Ford, 9 Sam Harrison, 8 Jordan Crane, 7 Julian Salvi, 6 Tom Croft, 5 Graham Kitchener, 4 Ed Slater, 3 Logovi'i Mulipola, 2 Rob Hawkins, 1 Marcos Ayerza.
Replacements: 16 George Chuter, 17 Kieran Brookes, 18 Fraser Balmain, 19 Brett Deacon, 20 Richard Thorpe, 21 Micky Young, 22 Matt Cornwell, 23 Mathew Tait.

Saracens: 15 Chris Wyles, 14 James Short, 13 Joel Tomkins, 12 Adam Powell, 11 David Strettle, 10 Charlie Hodgson, 9 Richard Wigglesworth, 8 Ernst Joubert, 7 Will Fraser, 6 Jackson Wray, 5 Alistair Hargreaves, 4 Steve Borthwick (c), 3 Matt Stevens, 2 Schalk Brits, 1 Rhys Gill.
Replacements: 16 John Smit, 17 Nick Auterac, 18 Petrus du Plessis, 19 George Kruis, 20 Justin Melck, 21 Neil de Kock, 22 Nils Mordt, 23 Duncan Taylor.

Date: Saturday, February 23
Kick-off: 20:00
Venue: Welford Road
Referee: JP Doyle
Assistant referees: Paul Dix, Nigel Carrick
Timekeeper: Brian Abrahams
Television match official: Graham Hughes
Assessor: Clive Leeke

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PosTeamPPts
1Saracens2080
2Northampton2071
3Bath2064
4Leicester Tigers2064
5Harlequins2058