Friday, 24 May 2013

Premiership Final Preview: The Team

Leicester and Northampton meet for the 228th time as they line up for tomorrow's Aviva Premiership Final.  Tigers most prolific opponents since their 1880 foundation the Saints have reached their first Premiership final after 5 semi final defeats; Tigers go into their 9th final in 9 years.

Richard Cockerill names an unchanged side.  Ed Slater only makes the bench after failing to recover in time from his triceps injury whilst Vereniki Goneva is preferred on the left wing to Adam Thompstone after two impressive performances. 

Anthony Allen will make his 100th appearance for the club four years after joining from Gloucester.  Allen will play in his 5th Premiership final, his first was Gloucester's defeat to Tigers in 2007 and he has featured in each of the last three finals in Tigers' stripes.

The unpredictability of modern rugby is laid bare as Tigers show 9 changes from the XV that faced Quins 12 months ago and 10 from the side that played Saracens 2 years ago.  Only Anthony Allen and Ben Youngs have featured in all three teams, with both players also featuring in the last winning final in 2010 again against Saracens. 

Mat Tait, Niall Morris, Vereniki Goneva and Graham Kitchener play in their first Premiership Final so Tigers experience of these occasions is not as vast as some might make out.  Institutional experience we have in spades but that counts for nothing once the whitewash is crossed.

Northampton stick with most of the side that inflicted Saracens' first defeat on the AstroTurf of their new home.

Powerful front row trio Soane Tonga'huia, Dylan Hartley and Brian Mujati play together for the final time as both props depart to Racing Metro next season.  Christian Day was a Premiership Champion in 2006 when his Sale side defeated Tigers in a rain soaked Twickenham, he and partner Courtney Lawes will be looking to inflict more pain on the Leicester in the lineout and defence. 

The Saints backrow features Coventry's Tom Wood, Cumbria's Phil Dowson and slightly more exotically San Francisco's Samu Manoa.  Wood and Manoa are high quality players and will needed to be guarded in both attack and defence.  

The very tall backrow will provide Tigers with plenty of competition in the lineout but we must seek to expose the lack of a genuine fetcher by latching Salvi onto every tackle before their pack can clear him out.

England tourists Lee Dickson, Stephen Myler and Luther Burrell are Saints midfield axis.  Burrell has made a big impression in the run in after gaining his chance due to injury to Dom Waldouck.  Ben Foden is a quality full back who will be looking to give Stuart Lancaster a red face for excluding him from England's recent squads.  

Jaime Elliot made his Northampton debut whilst still at school and the young winger has taken of Paul Diggin's mantel as local boy done good topping the try scoring charts for the Saints in the league.  

Key Areas:

1. The Opening Stages
Both sides will be looking for a big start and to blow the other out of the water in the first 30 minutes.  In the most recent match up between the sides it was Tigers who got that early lead but two season ago when Saints last won it was they who got two tries in the first ten minutes.  Tigers have a bad habit in finals of losing contact early and leaving themselves with too much to do in the closing stages.

2. Ruck and Maul
Tigers attack is predicted on a good supply of ball; whilst we have the skill to manufacture quick ball in phase play the top sides we play prevent us from doing this consistently and our multi-phase attacks falls apart.  Saints play a momentum game and the key to that is fairly simple.  Knock them back at every turn.  If they see a crack they flood through it and you have about as much chance as Canute to turn the tide.  

3. Kicking
Both goal and punt kicking.  Not every final is a cracker and if either side can control territory and build a lead it might just be enough.  The "Manu" semi from two years ago was 11-3 so don't be surprised if this is a dour affair where the defence cancels out the attack and it comes down to who can take the points the referee offers.

Leicester Football Club XV to Face Northampton
Premiership Final
25th May 2013

15. Mat Tait
      Age: 27
      Tigers Apps: 26
      Tigers Debut: Saracens (H), 24th Sept 2011
      Honours: England (38)

14. Niall Morris
      Age: 24
      Tigers Apps: 38
      Tigers Debut: Exeter (H), 3rd Sept 2011

13. Manu Tuilagi
      Age: 22
      Tigers Apps: 60
      Tigers Debut: South Africa (H), 6th Nov 2009
      Honours: England (21)

12. Anthony Allen
      Age: 26
      Tigers Apps: 99
      Tigers Debut: Sale (A), 4th Sept 2009
      Honours: England (2)

11. Vereniki Goneva
      Age: 29
      Tigers Apps: 15
      Tigers Debut: London Welsh (A), 2nd Sept 2012
      Honours: Fiji (29)

10. Toby Flood
      Age: 27
      Tigers Apps: 94
      Tigers Debut: Gloucester (A), 7th Sept 2008
      Honours: England (57)

9.  Ben Youngs
      Age: 23
      Tigers Apps: 116
      Tigers Debut: Argentina (H), 11th Feb 2007
      Honours: England (33)

1.  Logovi’i Mulipola
      Age: 26
      Tigers Apps: 42
      Tigers Debut: Wasps (H), 7th Jan 2012
      Honours: Samoa (10)

2.  Tom Youngs
      Age: 26
      Tigers Apps: 50
      Tigers Debut: Northampton (A), 2nd Dec 2006
      Honours: England (9)

3.  Dan Cole
      Age: 26
      Tigers Apps: 105
      Tigers Debut: Bath (A), 27th October 2007
      Honours: England (40)

4.  Graham Kitchener
      Age: 23
      Tigers Apps: 36
      Tigers Debut: London Wasps (A), 11th Sept 2011

5.  Geoff Parling
      Age: 29
      Tigers Apps: 67
      Tigers Debut: Newcastle (H), 19th Sept 2009
      Honours: England (17)

6.  Tom Croft
      Age: 27
      Tigers Apps: 126
      Tigers Debut: Gloucester (H), 12th Nov 2005
      Honours: England (38), Lions (3)

7.  Julian Salvi
      Age: 27
      Tigers Apps: 57
      Tigers Debut: Exeter (H), 3rd Sept 2011

8.  Jordan Crane
      Age: 26
      Tigers Apps: 150
      Tigers Debut: Gloucester (H), 16th Sept 2006
      Honours: England (3)


16. Rob Hawkins
      Age: 30
      Tigers Apps: 51
      Tigers Debut: Leeds (H), 25th Sept 2010

17. Fraser Balmain
      Age: 21
      Tigers Apps: 14
      Tigers Debut: Ospreys (A), 12th Nov 2010

18. Martin Castrogiovanni
      Age: 31
      Tigers Apps: 145
      Tigers Debut: Sale (H), 3rd Sept 2006
      Honours: Italy (95)

19. Ed Slater
      Age: 24
      Tigers Apps: 67
      Tigers Debut: Northampton (A), 5th Sept 2010

20: Steve Mafi
      Age: 23
      Tigers Apps: 72
      Tigers Debut: Leeds (H), 25th Sept 2010
      Honours: Tonga (9)

21. Sam Harrison
      Age: 23
      Tigers Apps: 46
      Tigers Debut: Treviso (H), 17th Jan 2009

22. George Ford
      Age: 20
      Tigers Apps: 40
      Tigers Debut: Leeds (A), 8th Nov 2009

23. Matt Smith
      Age: 27
      Tigers Apps: 136
      Tigers Debut: Barbarians (H), 17th Mar 2006


15 Ben FODEN
14 Ken PISI
13 James WILSON
12 Luther BURRELL
11 Jamie ELLIOTT
10 Stephen MYLER
2 Dylan HARTLEY (capt)
3 Brian MUJATI
4 Courtney LAWES
5 Christian DAY
7 Tom WOOD
8 Samu MANOA

17 Alex WALLER
21 Martin ROBERTS
22 Ryan LAMB
23 George PISI

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