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Preview: Premiership Final

Thu, 24 May 2012 20:25
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You can bank on Tigers winning the arm-wrestle, maybe even by 10 points or more.
Quote-end
It will be a sold-out Twickenham that will bear witness to the 2012 Premiership Final - a clash between the 'rookies' and the 'veterans'.

It will be Harlequins' first appearance in a Premiership Final, Leicester Tigers will in the Grand Finale for an eighth successive year.

Not surprising then that Quins skipper Chris Robshaw insisted his troops must possess a "no-fear" attitude as they attempt to bag their first Premiership title.

Quins sneaked through their semifinal against Northampton 25-23 thanks to a 76th minute push-over try by prop Joe Marler - converted by Nick Evans.

And having trailed the Saints for the majority of the game two weeks ago Robshaw believes the pressure of knock-out rugby got to his side.

Standing between Robshaw's men and a maiden English league title are the nine-times champions Leicester - who beat Quins 43-33 at the Stoop last month.

But with the squad having recharged their batteries on a team trip to Abu Dhabi last week, the 25-year-old England captain is sure his side have what it takes to lift the trophy, as long as they can control their nerves.

"It was a nervy occasion [the semifinal] and did it get the better of us? Probably, but at the end we kept a bit of composure and managed to get that driving maul over and Nick Evans thankfully slotted the points," said Robshaw.

"Hopefully we'll be a bit more relaxed [against Leicester].

"None of us have actually been in one of these finals before. So it's new for us all and it's going to be a very exciting time.

"I think that trip last week helped, it allowed us to relax. We went over there and got some good quality training in but we were allowed to let our hair down and have barbeques and do these sorts of things.

"The squad was always close but I think it's now a bit closer together and it's given us that little lift."

Harlequins started the season at 100-mile-per-hour and went top of the table after just three weeks, maintaining top spot from there on in.

The club's consistent form has been spearheaded by home-grown talents and Robshaw, himself an academy product, admits that contesting cup finals with your mates is as good as it gets.

"You look throughout the first team now and half, maybe more than half, have come through academy," he added.

"It is special to go out there and play with guys I was playing with when I was 17, 18 years old; the Mike Brown's the George Robson's - these kind of guys.

"It'll be a great occasion but we'll make sure we turn up and can't be afraid to lose."

Harlequins achieved their highest ever finishing position in English league and have reached a debut Premiership Final.

Quins have topped the Premiership table since Round Three, whilst their only defeat in the competition since February was at home to Saturday's opponents, Leicester, on April 21.

Harlequins have won the last four finals they have contested in all competitions, but have won just twice in their last seven visits to Twickenham.

Leicester Tigers, who will play in an eighth successive Premiership final, are chasing an eighth Premiership crown and a 10th English League title.

Tigers have won their last eleven matches in all competitions, whilst their only reversal in the Premiership since Harlequins beat them at Welford Road in early October was at Exeter on February 11.

Leicester have won just three of the last eight finals they have contested in all competitions and have won only twice in their last seven visits to Twickenham.

The two famous old clubs have been playing each other since 1895, with Leicester winning 107 previous encounters to 71 by Harlequins and 9 games drawn. In the Premiership Quins have beaten the Tigers just twice in 28 previous meetings, whilst the two sides have met in just one previous final: on 1 May 1993 at Twickenham where Leicester took the Pilkington Cup 23-16.

Tigers have played Quins 55 times before at Twickenham with honours even at 26 wins apiece with 3 draws.

Recent Premiership results:
2009: Tigers won 15-9, Twickenham Stoop
2010: Tigers won 40-22, Welford Road
2010: Tigers won 18-13, Welford Road
2011: Tigers won 17-13, Twickenham Stoop
2011: Quins won 27-18, Welford Road
2012: Tigers won 43-33, Twickenham Stoop

Prediction: Experience counts for everything in finals and Tigers have all the experience. Quins almost choked in the semifinal and this time the pressure will be even more intense. You can bank on Tigers winning the arm-wrestle, maybe even by 10 points or more.

Teams:

Leicester Tigers: TBC

Harlequins: TBC

Date: Saturday, May 26
Venue: Twickenham, London
Kick-off: 15.00 (14.00 GMT)
Referee: Wayne Barnes
Assistant referees: Dave Pearson and Paul Dix
TMO: Geoff Warren
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