Injured Lions no problem for Tigers, says Saints boss Mallinder

TOUGH TEST - Jim Mallinder knows Leicester will be as strong as ever, despite the loss of Tom Croft and Manu Tuilagi
TOUGH TEST - Jim Mallinder knows Leicester will be as strong as ever, despite the loss of Tom Croft and Manu Tuilagi

The loss of British & Irish Lions stars Tom Croft and Manu Tuilagi will not worry Leicester, according to Saints boss Jim Mallinder.

Both players will miss Saturday’s east midlands derby at Welford Road after picking up long-term injuries.

Influential flanker Croft has been ruled for the rest of the season with a knee ligament injury, while Tuilagi is out for around two months with a torn pectoral muscle.

The absences of two men who played their part in the Lions’ superb 2-1 Test series success against Australia during the summer could be perceived as a hefty blow for Tigers.

But Mallinder refuses to believe Richard Cockerill’s side will be significantly weakened by their absence.

“They’ve lost two big players there but they’ve got a massive squad of massive, experienced players,” he said.

“They get rid of one and another quality player starts in the 15 so I don’t think they’ll worry about missing those players. They’ve got a massive squad full of international players.”

Saints would dearly love to claim victory against their local rivals this weekend, as they bid to banish memories of May’s Premiership final defeat.

But Mallinder is keen to stress his men are not on a revenge mission, merely focusing on winning their fourth league game in five this season.

“There’s no score to settle,” he said. “We’ve had some brilliant battles in the past.

“The cup final, forgetting about all the controversial moments, was a fantastic game of rugby. We came back with 14 men, we played well with 14 men and scored some fantastic tries to give ourselves a chance of winning that game.

“All we’ve focused on this week is how technically, tactically, mentally we can win this game. And we’ve got to get the physicality right as well, because it will be physical.

“We’ve got to get everything in place and that’s what we’ve been concentrating on.”

But Mallinder does concede a victory, which would be Saints’ first against Tigers since September 2010, would be a huge boost for his side.

“It would have a massive positive impact,” said the director of rugby, who takes his side to Castres in the Heineken Cup a week later before clashes with Ospreys and Saracens.

“It’s not the end of the world if you go up there and don’t win. It won’t define our season, but leading into these difficult games we’ve got and the international period, a win up there would be massive.”