Saints will be thinking about Horne on return to Welford Road

Rob Horne was at Twickenham for Saints' game against Leicester in October
Rob Horne was at Twickenham for Saints' game against Leicester in October

Ahsee Tuala says Rob Horne will be on the minds of the Saints players when they return to Welford Road on Friday night.

Horne suffered a career-ending injury just 13 seconds into the previous east midlands derby at the home of Leicester Tigers.

The Australian ace was involved in an unfortunate collision with Tigers No.8 Sione Kalmafoni and suffered full paralysis of his right arm in the game last April.

He was forced to retire at the age of just 28 and has since returned home to Australia, where he has been working with the national sevens team.

Saints paid tribute to Horne back in October, moving their home match against Leicester to Twickenham to raise funds for their former player.

And he will be in their thoughts again this week as they go back to Welford Road for the first time since winning 27-21 there last year.

"Obviously with what happened to Rob last year, it's a game the boys hold close to their hearts," said Samoan ace Tuala.

"I think we'll think about that this week and I've got it in the back of my mind.

"I grew close with Rob and his family and we got to know them pretty well. We still keep in touch with them.

"This derby game is certainly close to me because of what happened last season."

Tuala scored a superb try in the win against Tigers last season as Saints ended an 11-year wait for a win at Welford Road.

And he said: "Coby (Reinach) set me up and I managed to duck and weave through a couple of players.

"It was about perseverance last season and an 80-minute performance.

"We can't slip off any time against the Tigers because they will punish us.

"We've got to stick to our guns and our game plan.

"We really want to put ourselves up where the big boys are in the table and we want to play some good rugby."

So can Saints, who are currently nine points adrift of fourth-placed Gloucester, still finish in the Gallagher Premiership top four this season?

"I think so," Tuala said.

"We're still in contention for the top four and this game will be a massive part of where we end up.

"We're really looking forward to this week and both teams are really relying on this match."