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Rugby News

Match preview: 'The best rivalry in the league'

Leicester Tigers and Northampton Saints meet in the first derby of the season on Saturday with both teams eager to bounce back from defeat on the opening weekend of the Aviva Premiership campaign.

Saints were beaten by Saracens in the Double Header at Twickenham last weekend while Tigers lost 23-27 at home to Bath, setting up another massive day in the 239th East Midlands derby.

The 55 points they shipped in defeat at Twickenham was the second-biggest points total Saints have ever conceded in an Aviva Premiership match. They have, though, not lost their opening two matches in a Premiership campaign since the first two games they ever played in the tournament back in 1997/98.

Northampton’s only defeat at Franklin’s Gardens so far in 2017 was against Leicester in the Aviva Premiership at the end of March.

Tigers have lost their opening two matches in an Aviva Premiership campaign only once before, in season 2011/12, and have won their last seven matches against the Saints in all competitions since December 2014. Northampton’s only other victory over the Tigers in 19 encounters since September 2010 was at home in Aviva Premiership semi-final in 2014.

Derby Day is always one of the first fixtures to be marked up on calendars inside the Tigers camp, according to scrum-half Ben Youngs.

And they haven’t had to wait long this year with a meeting in Round 2 at Franklin’s Gardens.

“Leicester v Northampton is one in the calendar you often try and find first and see when you’ll be playing,” he said.

“I think they’re great, it’s great for the fans. There’s a tremendous history in terms of the rivalry.

“I think it’s the best rivalry in the Premiership. I don’t think other games produce, quite as often, what Leicester v Northampton does.”

Just 12 points separated the teams across both fixtures last season, with Tigers scoring a home-and-away double.

“I think the games I’ve won and lost in the derby games have been about composure at the right times,” added Youngs, “and not letting the occasion get the better of you.”

Team news from both camps is announced at noon on Friday, with Saints likely to include British & Irish Lions lock Courtney Lawes and England captain Dylan Hartley. Tighthead prop Kieran Brookes and flanker Jamie Gibson will be hoping to face their former team-mates in Tigers ranks. The visitors will be without Manu Tuilagi who suffered a knee injury in the defeat by Bath last weekend.

Referee for Saturday is JP Doyle in his 134th Premiership game.

Tigers will be in the club’s alternate kit at Franklin’s Gardens this week.

Kick-off is at 4.30pm and there is live coverage on BT Sport. Or keep in touch via the new matchday live service on the Tigers website or the club’s official social media pages.

There is a second derby fixture at 7.00pm when Franklin’s Gardens hosts a Premiership ‘A’ League fixture between Northampton Wanderers and the Leicester Tigers Development XV. Both teams got their campaign off to a winning start last Monday, with Northampton beating Sale as Tigers ran in nine tries at Worcester. Look out or team news from both camps in the build-up to kick-off and full coverage on the Tigers website and social media pages.

A limited number of tickets remain available at www.northamptonsaints.co.uk/buytickets.

The Match Day Village opens at 1:30pm, with the game between Bath and Saracens on the big screen from 2.00pm.