The rivalry between Leicester Tigers and Northampton Saints, already one of the biggest in English rugby, seems to grow bigger every season and a first ever final meeting between the clubs can only add to that. It is certainly one that The Tig looks for first.
Worcester’s Sixways stadium offers a tight and atmospheric setting for a first ever game between the sides on neutral territory.
There have been some classic encounters over recent seasons for it to live up to, none more so than Tigers’ 30-25 win over Saints at Welford Road in December when Horacio Agulla’s late run and dive into the corner gave Tigers a much-needed victory.
Both clubs make a significant contribution to England’s Six Nations cause, while Tigers are also losing Martin Castrogiovanni to Italy this weekend.
But even without the absence of England and Italy internationals there are plenty of interesting battles, not least in the front row where Logoviii Mulipola, the current Goldsmiths Player of the Month, packs down opposite Soane Tonga’uhia for the first time. That is one confrontation that The Tig is really looking forward to.
On the opposite side of the scrum, there is another fascinating duel between Boris Stankovich, who was tipped in some quarters for an England call at the start of the Six Nations, and Paul Doran Jones, who has three caps to his name.
The back row battle looks tasty as well, with Steve Mafi, Craig Newby and Thomas Waldrom up against Calum Clark, Tom Wood and Roger Wilson.
And there is plenty of threat in the backs on both sides. Billy Twelvetrees and Horacio Agulla have scored five tries each this season, while Russia international Vasily Artemyev scored a hat-trick on his Northampton debut against Saracens in this year’s LV= Cup.
With the season’s first piece of silverware, a place in next year’s Heineken Cup and local bragging rights all at stake, it promises to be another tense, nervy encounter.
Bring. It. On.