Friday, 28 March 2014

Team Named for Derby Day

It’s finally time.  Derby day is here.  Tigers make one change from the side that thrashed Exeter as Mat Tait takes over from Scott Hamilton.  Last time out Northampton struggled to defeat away to Sale and have made 3 changes; Kahn Fotuali’i comes in at scrum half, George Pisi starts at outside centre and Phil Dowson starts at openside.

Tigers go into this match in terrific form winning 5 on the bounce and scoring 13 tries in their last 3 games.  Meanwhile Northampton has lost their last two away to Exeter then Sale; before that though they were on a 13 game unbeaten run.  We all know the cliché of the form book going out the window in derbies; but Tigers have been on a great run against Saints going undefeated in the last 9 meetings.

Tigers’ man of the moment is Vereniki Goneva with 6 tries in his last 5 starts, how Northampton cope with Goneva will be crucial.  In the 9 game unbeaten run Tigers have managed to score 25 or more points in 6 matches; the Saints meanwhile have only reached that score once and lost that game.  The last two meetings at Franklin’s Gardens have ended with Bonus Point wins for the visitors.

With a cloth ear to controversy the RFU in their infinite wisdom have appointed Wayne Barnes as referee.  The same Barnes who sent off Dylan Hartley in the Premiership final after he accused Barnes of being a “fucking cheat”, the same Barnes who sent off Alesana Tuilagi and Chris Ashton three years ago, the same Barnes who sin binned Manu Tuilagi and Ashton in the Premiership semi final of 2011.  Given the Northampton crowd’s obsession with Barnes he will be under immense pressure to “right the wrongs” they perceive him to have done to them in the past.

Equally Cockerill will be looking for Barnes to clamp down on Northampton’s history of late tackles on our key playmakers; he is in an unenviable position of scrutiny.  The RFU must make these appointments deliberately as Barnes has now refereed 5 of the last 8 meetings between the sides.  Given they let people referee their own local clubs they probably don’t even think about this sort of pressure on a referee.

Both teams are missing their USA internationals as the Eagles welcome Uruguay to Atlanta in a World Cup qualifier.  Last week Samu Manoa scored a breakaway try as the USA struggled to a disappointing draw in Montevideo.  Any side would miss a player like Manoa but it is another absentee that is likely to be felt more strongly.

Northampton’s two game losing streak has coincided with the injury to fly half Stephen Myler.  The Widnes born controller has been in magnificent form, both in open play and as a goal kicker.  The Saints can be accused of a lack of depth in position as the only cover is youngster Will Hooley, originally from Cambridge. 

Tigers number 8 Jordan Crane makes his hundredth league start for Leicester.  Crane has been in brilliant form the last two matches as he is getting back towards his best.  His strong central carrying has been key to Tigers getting onto the front foot and drawing in the defenders, giving the wide men like Goneva and Tuilagi more room to roam.

The history books and the form guide suggest Tigers should be favourites but Northampton will never be more motivated to turn over their greatest rivals than this week.  With 8 wins and draw in the last 9 fixtures it is surely their time to gain the bragging rights.

15 Mat Tait
14 Vereniki Goneva
13 Manu Tuilagi
12 Anthony Allen
11 Adam Thompstone
10 Owen Williams
9 Ben Youngs
1 Marcos Ayerza
2 Tom Youngs
3 Logovi'i Mulipola
4 Louis Deacon
5 Ed Slater (c)
6 Jamie Gibson
7 Julian Salvi
8 Jordan Crane

16 Rob Hawkins
17 Boris Stankovich
18 Fraser Balmain
19 Graham Kitchener
20 Pablo Matera
21 David Mele
22 Toby Flood
23 Scott Hamilton

15 Ben Foden
14 Jamie Elliott
13 George Pisi
12 Luther Burrell
11 George North
10 Will Hooley
9 Kahn Fotuali'i
1 Alex Waller
2 Dylan Hartley (c)
3 Salesi Ma'afu
4 Courtney Lawes
5 Christian Day
6 Calum Clark
7 Phil Dowson
8 Tom Wood 
16 Mike Haywood
17 Ethan Waller
18 Tom Mercey
19 James Craig
20 GJ Van Velze
21 Lee Dickson
22 James Wilson
23 Ken Pisi

Referee: Wayne Barnes
Assistant Referees: Roger Bailiff and Gordon Goodliffe
TV: BT Sport 1HD, Saturday 3:15 KO.

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