Aussie gears up for first Premiership derby

Wed, 06 Sep 2017 10:02
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IN THE SPOTLIGHT: New Leicester Tigers head coach Matt O'Connor's opening loss poses a huge challenge for his first massive East Midlands derby at Franklin’s Gardens.

The Tigers take on the Northampton Saints, who lost to European champions Saracens while Leicester were downed by Bath Rugby.

Both scored three tries in defeat which hints at a lively derby.

The fierce rivals have fought out some nail-biting contests over the years with their most recent encounter seeing Tigers triumph 36-31 in Aaron Mauger’s emotional last game in charge.

New Tigers head coach Matt O’Connor is expecting a big challenge as his side look for their first win of the campaign at Franklin’s Gardens.

"Tigers Saints is always a massive day in the calendar for everyone in the area and the players look very fondly at it," he said.

"It’s a real challenge of your mentality as much as anything else and to have it second game of the season is really positive.

"They mean a little bit more to the players and there are players from Leicester in that group that have had that rivalry their whole lives, it does add a little bit of spice and it has spilt over on occasion,"

Bath saw three men shown yellow cards at Welford Road as they held on for an extremely tight win despite a barrage of late pressure from the Tigers on Sunday.

Australian O’Connor knows it will be important that his players keep their cool under the immense pressure of an East Midlands derby.

"It’s important to control your emotions but the occasions it does spill over it demonstrates the passion is there and that it does mean so much to the players," he added.

"But it’s about keeping your nerve and making sure that regardless of what is going on you execute and do your job.

"It’s incredibly disappointing [if you lose] and it affects so many people and that adds to the disappointment,"

In contrast to O’Connor, Saints Director of Rugby Jim Mallinder has spent the past decade at the helm in Northampton and is targeting a response to their opening day defeat.

"We’ve got to quickly learn and move on. Next week is big for us, we need to be better," he said.

"We’ve played in some big games, but next is going to be big. It’s vital for us that we get a win and get our season going.

"I think we can fix this without a doubt. We’ve got the players who can do that but we certainly need to step up.

"We won’t have any of the flyhalves available but our southern hemisphere lads will be available, I’ve got 23 selection decisions to make,"

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