Martin Johnson believes Premiership final new-boys Northampton Saints could extend Leicester Tigers’ Twickenham hoodoo later this month, with the memories of his own showpiece despair still fresh in his mind.
On paper it would take a brave man to bet against Leicester Tigers from regaining the Premiership trophy they last held in 2010, as they head into their ninth-straight showpiece.
Standing in their way this time are fierce rivals Northampton, who are appearing in their first final having impressively dispatched of top-of-the-table Saracens 27-13 in the semi-final, inflicting a first defeat at Allianz Park on the London outfit in the process.
And it is this impressive display last time out, as well as the previous two final losses to Sarries and Harlequins that means Johnson is adamant his former side Tigers can’t just count on past experience later this month.
And former England captain Johnson knows only too well what he is talking about, with his last game for the Tigers coming in the 2005 Premiership final loss to London Wasps, a side they had beaten three times already that season.
“My last game was a final at Twickenham and we [Leicester] ended up getting heavily beaten by a team we had beaten three times that year so anything can happen,” said Johnson.
“When you are playing in a final it is different for when you are going for the league. Saracens topped the league and it then gets to one off games and they lost.
“But I think it is good that way because to win World Cups or Grand Slams you have to win those big one off games.
“It is brutal at the end of a long year if you have won the league and then get beaten in one game but that is the way it is.
“Quins last year turned up and played very well and deserved to win. You have to step up and win it and neither side will want to lose to the other in the final so it should be a cracking game.
“People often talk about the European Cup final where Northampton lost a big lead as an example of them not being used to final experiences but I don’t think that comes into it at all.
“You can look at it in two ways and say that they got to a European Cup final and not a lot of teams have even done that.”
However, given the fact that Johnson racked up 166 appearances for Leicester, helping them win five Premiership titles and two Heineken Cups along the way, there are no surprises as to who he is supporting come May 25.
“Leicester have been to Twickenham finals a lot, a lot of consecutive finals, while Northampton have been to a lot of consecutive semi-finals,” he added.
“Those two in a final at Twickenham, it’s the first time that has happened in any competition so that is going to be fantastic for the area.
“I live right on the border and do run into the occasional Northampton fan and I think it will hopefully be a great final and I am hoping for a Leicester win.”
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