Leicester Tigers travel to Sale Sharks in the final match of the Aviva Premiership programme on Saturday with European Champions Cup qualification places on the line.
After defeat by Newcastle Falcons last weekend, Tigers were nudged out of the play-off places, but both Tigers and Sale – along with Gloucester and Bath – are still playing for spots in Europe’s top club competition next season.
Semi-finalists Exeter Chiefs, Saracens, Wasps and Newcastle have already guaranteed their places. Tigers, in fifth place, are on 58 points (and 12 wins) going into the final round, ahead of Gloucester (56 points, 11 wins), Sale (54, 10) and Bath (51, 10). If teams finish level on match points, finishing positions is determined by wins, then by points difference.
A point, therefore, at the AJ Bell Stadium, would secure a place in the Champions Cup for Tigers, the only team to qualify for the tournament in every year of English club participation.
Last season’s meeting at the home of the Sharks ended in a 34-30 victory for the hosts, though Tigers won the return fixture and secured a 35-27 triumph in the opening meeting of the teams this season.
In team news announced on Friday, there is a return to the Tigers line-up for Jonah Holmes, Mathew Tait and Mike Williams, while George McGuigan comes into the squad in place of the injured Tom Youngs. Logovi’i Mulipola is in line to make his 100th Premiership appearance in his last game for the club before a summer move to Newcastle.
“I think we’ve shown how good we are at different stages of the season, but the challenge is around consistency,” said Tigers head coach Matt O’Connor.
“You have to have the ability to grind out results and we have probably not done that enough.
“Now this is a huge game. Sale have a good record at home, it’s a good surface there and both teams will try to play. But we need to put Sharks under pressure and get something out of that.”
Sharks director of rugby Steve Diamond said: “We're in good form and I think we've won eight of our last 12 games. We got beaten by a better side in Exeter last weekend but I thought in our previous match at Newcastle after a poor start we should have seen that game out, though many sides can probably say that this year."
Wayne Barnes, Premiership Rugby’s most experienced match official and this week confirmed as the man in charge of this season’s European Champions Cup Final, is referee in his 199th top-flight fixture.
Tigers will wear the club’s alternative white kit on Saturday.
All fixtures in Round 22 kick off at 4.00pm – Gloucester are at Saracens while Bath host London Irish – and there is live television coverage from the Tigers game on BT Sport.
If you are not travelling to the game or are unable to watch on TV, you can keep up to date with all of the action using the Tigers Matchday Live service on website, mobile website and app, or follow the club’s social media pages on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.