Tom Vickers’ Leicester Tigers versus Northampton Saints preview

DERBY EXPERIENCE - Ethan Waller scores for Saints in their Premiership defeat to Leicester in March 2014
DERBY EXPERIENCE - Ethan Waller scores for Saints in their Premiership defeat to Leicester in March 2014

Fixture: Leicester Tigers v Northampton Saints (LV= Cup - match three)

Date/kick-off time: Saturday, January 31, 3pm

Venue: Welford Road

Weather forecast: 4C, chance of rain

Referee: Nigel Owens

Leicester: Bell; Morris, Catchpole, Roberts, Thompstone; Williams, Harrison; Rizzo, Thacker, Balmain; Peterson, De Chaves; Gibson, Barbieri, Pearce.

Replacements: Briggs, Brugnara, Mulipola, Whetton, Beckett, Mele, Smith, Hepetema.

Saints: Collins; Elliott, Waldouck, Stephenson, Packman; Hooley, Hodgson; E Waller, Williams, Denman; Ryder, Woolford; Dowson, Harrison, Dolan.

Replacements: Marshall, Hobbs-Awoyemi, Parkins, Onojaife, Nutley, A Day, Olver, Hutchinson.

Outs: Leicester: Camacho, Cole, Allen, Deacon, Hamilton, Slater, Thorn, Tuilagi (injured), T Youngs, Kitchener, Croft, B Youngs, Parling (all international duty). Saints: Fisher (foot), Lawes (ankle), Foden (knee), Wood (ankle), Ma’afu (concussion), A Waller, Corbisiero, Hartley, Day, Clark, Dickson, Myler, Burrell (all international duty).

Most recent meeting: Saturday, December 20: Saints 23 Leicester 19 (Aviva Premiership)

Tom’s preview: An east midlands derby that’s not televised? Only in the LV= Cup.

While the wider world has grown used to watching these traditionally bloody battles unfold, this weekend Saints’ trip to Leicester will only be viewed from Welford Road.

There will be no intervention from BT Sport or Sky Sports, who have opted to show Harlequins’ game against Bath on the same afternoon.

Now, this might not appear to be of interest, but the reason the cameras are heading elsewhere is surely due to the nature of the competition and the lack of star names.

Six Nations and England Saxons duty has dragged plenty of international players away from both Leicester and Saints.

There will be no Ben Youngs trying to get the better of Lee Dickson.

There will be no rambunctious George North runs or Manu Tuilagi thrusts.

There will be no Tom Youngs-Dylan Hartley head-to-heads to be replayed over and over.

But what there will be is a host of players desperate to make a name for themselves.

Many of them will have been brought up at the clubs they have representing, being taught just how much the east midlands derby means to all involved.

And for that reason, there should be no lack of spice in this fixture.

There have been five red cards in the past nine Premiership games between these two giants, with Saints attracting the referee’s attention more.

And you wouldn’t bet against a few more flare ups this weekend.

There is a real excitement in the Saints squad about getting stuck into the old enemy.

This week’s press day at Franklin’s Gardens was attended by Ethan Waller, Matti Williams and Jamie Elliott: players who have progressed through the ranks.

Waller spoke about the lack of love lost between the clubs, while the others also recalled experiences against Tigers - from the back pitches to the main events.

And while you will always get excitement from Saints players towards Tigers games and vice versa, there was an even more striking feeling of desire this week.

So while the sides will be very different to those that took to the field at Franklin’s Gardens for the Aviva Premiership match in December, the badges on the shirts will be the same.

And you can guarantee that those men sporting them will be giving everything for their club’s cause.

It should be some spectacle.

Tom’s prediction: Leicester 25 Saints 18