Planet Rugby

Preview: Leicester v Harlequins

10th May 2013 12:10

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Finisher: Tom Williams

Leicester will be looking to seal their thirteenth straight semi-final win in all competitions when they host holders Quins at Welford Road on Saturday.

A remarkable six Tigers made the recent Lions squad while there were none whatsoever from Quins, which might lead to some visiting players wanting to prove a point to the selectors. Also, Danny Care and Tiger Toby Flood may want to show Stuart Lancaster they don't need rest.

Leicester are boosted by the return of Mathew Tait and Dan Cole to their starting XV. The England internationals were both included among the replacements for last week's bonus-point win over London Irish but reclaim their starting spots.

Flood will lead out the team for the club's ninth successive appearance in the Premiership semi-finals in front of an expected 20,000-plus crowd for the Tigers' last home fixture of the season.

"The advantage of a home crowd is imperative and they have to be right behind us," the fly-half told the Leicester Mercury.

"We don't want the crowd to sit and wait for something to happen before responding. We want them to make it as loud as possible.

"If they get behind us and give us that energy, it certainly has an impact on the pitch.

"Teams have always been wary of coming to Welford Road and, if we can start well, and the crowd can get right behind us, it will give us a huge impetus."

In a blow to Quins, flanker Chris Robshaw has failed a late fitness test as he continues to recover from an injury sustained against Worcester. His place remains with Luke Wallace with Maurie Fa'asavalu, who is one of two changes to the starting line-up, on the blindside.

The second change sees Joe Gray starting at hooker where he is joined by Joe Marler and James Johnston. Conor O'Shea has made no changes to the backline as Tom Casson and George Lowe continue their partnership, going up against Anthony Allen and Manu Tuilagi.

Harlequins will hope the spine of their team is solid this week, with Nick Easter, Care, Nick Evans and Mike Brown critical to whether they progress past this strong Tigers line-up.

There are eight changes from the Leicester XV that lost to Quins - who have just two new faces - in that 2011/12 final, but with the Tigers at home we feel they will make it to HQ.

Ones to watch:

For Leicester: We go for the newly-crowned Aviva Premiership player of the year, Tom Youngs. It has been quite a week for the hooker as before Thursday's award ceremony, a British and Irish Lions call-up had come his way. Upon receiving the award last night he was quick to tribute his team-mates at the Tigers and Richard Cockerill's men will be hoping that collective spirit comes to fore on the field again in Saturday's semi-final.

For Harlequins: It's hard not to feel sympathy for Danny Care right now. Left out by the Lions and then he received a non-selection by Stuart Lancaster. The official word is that he is being rested but we imagine he would rather be playing than waiting on a Lions phone call.

Head-to-head: Two of England's entertaining full-backs are on show at Welford Road as Mathew Tait and Mike Brown face off. Tait has started to recapture the form that saw him set the 2007 World Cup alight of late and he'll want to continue that process injury free. Meanwhile, Quins fifteen Brown is a different kind of full-back and will pop up in the first line of attack. Excitement aplenty will come from both in similar amounts, however, on Saturday.

Form: Leicester have won their last twelve semi-final games in all competitions since Wasps beat them, 22-17, at the Millennium Stadium in the last four of the Anglo-Welsh Cup in March 2006. This is the Tigers fourth successive home Premiership semi-final, whilst they have not been defeated at Welford Road in a semi-final fixture since Gloucester were the visitors in the now defunct Cheltenham and Gloucester Cup in March 1998. Tigers are bidding to reach a ninth successive Premiership final whilst their last four games in all tournaments have all been won by the home side on the day. Harlequins are the defending Aviva Premiership Rugby champions and finished off the regular season with three successive wins against Bath, Worcester and Northampton. This is Quins third appearance in the Premiership semi-finals, losing out at home to London Irish in 2009 and beating Northampton 25-23 at the Twickenham Stoop at this stage last year. Quins have won their last three fixtures against the Tigers including last season's final at Twickenham, in addition Quins have triumphed on their last two visits to Welford Road, denying the Tigers even a losing bonus point on each occasion.

Prediction: Despite Harlequins having won their last three games in the Aviva Premiership, we just feel that Leicester will have the edge here and get into another final. Tigers by 8!

The teams:

Leicester: 15 Mathew Tait, 14 Niall Morris, 13 Manusamoa Tuilagi, 12 Anthony Allen, 11 Vereniki Goneva, 10 Toby Flood (c), 9 Ben Youngs, 8 Jordan Crane, 7 Julian Salvi, 6 Tom Croft, 5 Geoff Parling, 4 Graham Kitchener, 3 Dan Cole, 2 Tom Youngs, 1 Logovi'i Mulipola.
Replacements: 16 Rob Hawkins, 17 Fraser Balmain, 18 Martin Castrogiovanni, 19 Steve Mafi, 20 Thomas Waldrom, 21 Sam Harrison, 22 George Ford, 23 Matt Smith.

Harlequins: 15 Mike Brown 14 Tom Williams, 13 George Lowe, 12 Tom Casson, 11 Ugo Monye, 10 Nick Evans, 9 Danny Care, 8 Nick Easter (c), 7 Luke Wallace, 6 Maurie Fa'asavalu, 5 George Robson, 4 Olly Kohn, 3 James Johnston, 2 Joe Gray, 1 Joe Marler.
Replacements: 16 Rob Buchanan, 17 Mark Lambert, 18 Will Collier, 19 Charlie Matthews, 20 Tom Guest, 21 Karl Dickson, 22 Ben Botica, 23 Ross Chisholm.

Date: Saturday, May 11
Kick-off: 15:00 BST
Venue: Welford Road
Referee: Greg Garner
Assistant referees: Stuart Terheege, Gordon Goodliffe
Television match official: Geoffrey Warren
Timekeeper: David Hudson
Assessor: Ed Morrison

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