Leicester Tigers v Northampton Saints: Tom Vickers' big match preview

Competition: Gallagher Premiership (play-off semi-final)

By Tom Vickers
Friday, 10th June 2022, 12:31 pm
Updated Friday, 10th June 2022, 12:47 pm
Saints broke their 11-year Welford Road losing streak when they won there in April 2018
Saints broke their 11-year Welford Road losing streak when they won there in April 2018

Venue: Mattioli Woods Welford Road, Leicester

Date and kick-off time: Saturday, June 11, 2022, 4.30pm

Weather forecast: 21c, partly cloudy

Live television coverage: BT Sport 1

Referee: Matthew Carley

Leicester Tigers: Steward; Potter, Moroni, Kelly, Porter; Ford, Youngs; Genge (c), Montoya, Cole; Wells, Green; Liebenberg, Reffell, Wiese.

Replacements: Clare, Leatigaga, Heyes, Chessum, Martin, van Poortvliet, Burns, Nadolo.

Saints: Freeman; Proctor, Dingwall, Hutchinson, Skosan; Biggar, Mitchell; Iyogun, Matavesi, Painter; Coles, Ratuniyarawa; Lawes, Ludlam (c), Augustus.

Replacements: Haywood, Waller, Heffernan, Ribbans, Hinkley, James, Grayson, Francis.

Not considered for Saints selection: Matthew Arden, Conor Carey, George Furbank, Teimana Harrison, Paul Hill, Ollie Newman, Tom Wood.

Most recent meeting: Friday, February 11, 2022: Leicester Tigers 35 Saints 20 (Gallagher Premiership)

Tom's preview: In the build-up to every derby day, supporters are filled with hopes and fears.

Contrasting scenarios swirl around all week, with supporters wondering what will unfold at the weekend.

Will it be like the 2014 semi-final when Saints secured the most memorable of wins against their local rivals at the Gardens?

Or will it be like the 2013 final, when the day fell flat after Dylan Hartley’s dismissal?

Will it be like all those days between 2007 and 2017 when Saints lost every time at Welford Road?

Or will it be like those glorious occasions between 2018 and 2021 when Saints broke that losing streak and won three out of four league games in Leicester?

There are so many hopes and fears.

And when you consider the significance of this Saturday’s encounter - a shootout for a place in the Twickenham showpiece - those hopes and fears are amplified to the highest degree.

So what are the hopes and fears for Saints?

The hope is that Saints will summon the spirit of those sides that won regularly at Welford Road after ending their 11-year barren run back in April 2018.

The fear is that they will go the same way as the ones before that, and the one most recently, with Chris Boyd’s side having lost on their most recent visit to Tigers in February.

The hope is that this is a much stronger Saints side - which has claimed 32 points from the past 35 on offer - than the one that lost at Leicester last time before going on a four-game losing run.

The fear is that old issues still remain in terms of a lack of discipline in defence, struggles against the opposition driving game and a difficulty containing powerful packs.

The hope is that this side has the belief to overcome any opponent.

The fear is that they did not win away against any of the top five teams in the league this season.

The hope is that Boyd can come up with a game plan to take Tigers by surprise.

The fear is that Steve Borthwick will come up with a more effective one.

The hope is that an English side has to win at Welford Road at some point.

The fear is that no Premiership team won there in the league during the regular season.

The hope is that Saints’ dazzling backs can create enough magic to earn a win at Welford Road.

The fear is that the home side will deny them the possession they need to do that.

And so it goes on.

This is, after all, what derby weeks are all about.

Dreams coming true or despair unfolding.

It is what makes them so special.

And this weekend’s meeting is a very special one indeed.

Whether it will feel that way for Saints at the final whistle, the travelling fans can only hope.

Tom's prediction: Saints have built up plenty of belief in recent weeks, but Tigers won every regular-season home league game and, unlike Saints, they have not had to deal with any real injury issues this week. Tigers 31 Saints 20.