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Team news: Tigers v Saracens

Tom Croft returns to the matchday squad for the first time since the opening day of the season as Leicester Tigers host Saracens in Round 22 of the Aviva Premiership rugby season at Welford Road on Saturday.

International back-rower Croft is named among the replacements and is in line for his first appearance since surgery on a knee injury following the Round 1 win over Worcester Warriors back in September.
 
Toby Flood, David Mele and Blaine Scully are added to the backline following last week’s bonus-point win over Sale Sharks.
 
In the forward pack, Steve Mafi joins fellow internationals Pablo Matera and Thomas Waldrom in the back row and Louis Deacon joins Geoff Parling in the second row.
 
Dan Bowden takes a place among the replacements alongside Croft, and tighthead prop Tiziano Pasquali is included in an Aviva Premiership squad for the first time after three appearances in the LV= Cup this season.
 
Director of rugby Richard Cockerill said: “Tom Croft has been training fully and having him back is obviously good news. He’s come through all the challenges on his way back to fitness and it’s good to see him ready to go again.
 
“Steve Mafi, too, has been waiting for his chance and I feel he is ready to be rewarded with a place in the squad.
 
“Everyone has worked exceptionally hard to get this far but there is still work to do.”
 
Saturday’s game is already a 24,000 sell-out at Welford Road, taking attendances for home games past the 350,000 mark for the season.
 
Leicester Tigers (v Saracens, Welford Road, Saturday 3.15pm)
15 Mathew Tait
14 Niall Morris
13 Manusamoa Tuilagi
12 Toby Flood
11 Blaine Scully
10 Owen Williams
9 David Mele
1 Boris Stankovich
2 Neil Briggs
3 Fraser Balmain
4 Louis Deacon (c)
5 Geoff Parling
6 Steve Mafi
7 Pablo Matera
8 Thomas Waldrom
 
Replacements
16 Rob Hawkins
17 Marcos Ayerza
18 Tiziano Pasquali
19 Graham Kitchener
20 Tom Croft
21 Sam Harrison
22 Dan Bowden
23 Adam Thompstone

Saracens: 15 Ben Ransom, 14 Michael Tagicakibau, 13 Tim Streather, 12 Duncan Taylor, 11 Jack Wilson, 10 Charlie Hodgson, 9 Ben Spencer; 1 Rhys Gill, 2 Jamie George (c), 3 Petrus Du Plessis, 4 Eoin Sheriff, 5 Hayden Smith, 6 Maro Itoje, 7 Justin Melck, 8 Nick Fenton-Wells.
Replacements: 16 Scott Spurling, 17 Richard Barrington, 18 James Johnston, 19 Tom Jubb, 20 Hayden Thompson-Stringer, 21 Neil de Kock, 22 Nils Mordt, 23 Nick Tompkins