This weekend Tigers host nearest rivals Saints at Welford Road in a game which was declared a 24,000 sell-out more than a month in advance.
England are not playing this weekend, but they do have the right to withdraw players from the firing line as part of the EPS agreement this weekend.
After seeing the intensity of successive games against Toulouse, Ospreys and Gloucester, even The Tig agrees that seems a sensible move, though obviously we’d all prefer to see the in red, white and green.
But, even with a week of inactivity for the Test players, the national media still seems in awe of the national team.
Ben Youngs dropping out of the game against Gloucester last Saturday was “bad news for England”, the form of James Simpson-Daniel was “bad news for England” because he is not in their squad, while seeing Flood, Cole, Parling, Tuilagi, Allen, Waldrom, Tom Youngs and Ben Morgan come through unscathed was “good news for England”.
From The Tig’s perspective, Ben Youngs dropping out for was bad news for Ben and for Leicester (with respect to replacement Sam Harrison) and the lack of English injuries was good for all of the players listed and, longer term, for their respective clubs.
This national obsession seems to be a rugby phenomenon, though cricket media do stray into similar comments whenever Test players make their occasional appearances on the county circuit.
In football, when Wayne Rooney comes back from injury, it is “good news for Alex Ferguson and Manchester United” before it is good news for England, except when the return comes a week before a World Cup qualifier.
The fact that the Premiership rugby fixtures continue during international periods reflects the strength of the cub game in this country. If you doubt that fact, then try counting the heads at Welford Road this Saturday.
The points earned in each stage of the season count for exactly the same as any other. When fans are giving their support for the Tigers or Saints this weekend they won’t be looking at who is not playing but only at the men in their team’s shirts.
We’ll wait till they actually wear the red rose in match action before we throw full weight behind the national cause.