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Fri 24 May 2013 | 06:06

Preview: Premiership Final

Preview: Premiership Final
Fri 24 May 2013 | 06:06

Preview: Premiership Final


The culmination of many English players' dream is to play at Twickenham and both Leicester and Northampton will be hoping to put on a spectacle in the Premiership final at HQ on Saturday.

Leicester Tigers arrive at an incredible ninth successive Premiership Final, but with a less than flattering won three, lost five record from the previous eight.

The Tigers have lost just one Premiership Rugby match since February:  26-27 at Bath on 20 April. Leicester have been defeated on their last two visits to Twickenham – the Premiership finals in 2011 (to Saracens) and 2012 (to Harlequins).

The Tigers are bidding to be English Champions for a record 10th time.

Northampton Saints become the ninth different club to reach a Premiership Final as they attempt to carry off the Champions of England crown for the first time in their history.

This is only the second Premiership Final not to feature the number one seeds, Saracens having been eliminated last week by the Saints in the semifinals just like Gloucester were in 2007/08.

No side ranked lower than 2nd has ever won the Premiership Final.

Northampton's only defeat in their last four matches was 19-22 at Harlequins on 4 May.

This is the Saints' sixth visit to Twickenham where their only two victories were over Munster in the 2000 European Cup Final, and against Exeter in the National Trophy Final in 2008.

Overall the two great East Midlands rivals have locked horns on 227 previous occasions since they first met at Leicester's Belgrave Cricket & Cycle Ground on 6 November 1880, with the teams sharing a nil-nil draw.

Their only previous clash at a neutral venue was in their sole meeting in a Final – in last season's Anglo-Welsh Cup Final at Worcester, where the Tigers won 26-14.

The Tigers have won their last seven games against the Saints in all competitions since Northampton won 27-19 at Franklin's Gardens in the Premiership on 5 September 2010.

In the event of a tie: If scores are level after 40 minutes each way there shall be an immediate period of extra time between the teams of 10 minutes each way. If the scores are still tied after extra time then the winner will be the team which has scored the most tries in the game (including extra time). If scores are still equal then there will be a place kick competition to determine the winner.

Place Kicking Competition
A coin toss will determine at which end the competition will be at and another coin toss will determine which team goes first or second. Each team will nominate three kickers on the pitch at the end of extra time, designated kicker one, kicker two and kicker three.
Each kicker will take two kicks apiece in the following order:
* Kicker one from each team will take a kick from in front of the posts on the 22-metre line.
* Kicker two from each team will take a kick 15-metre in from the right touch line on the 22-metre line.
* Kicker three from each team will take a kick 15-metre in from the left touch line on the 22-metre line.
* Kicker one from each team will take a kick from in front of the posts on the 40m line.
* Kicker two from each team will take a kick 15-metre in from the right touch line on the 40m line.
* Kicker three from each team will take a kick 15-metre in from the left touch line on the 40m line.
If still tied there will be a 'sudden death competition' from in front of the posts on the 40m line.

Players to watch:

For Leicester: Captain and flyhalf Toby Flood is going to be the Tigers go to man from the tee in what should be an incredibly closely contested Final. In the centres Manu Tuilagi is a powerhouse and will be causing the Saints defence no end of trouble throughout. In the forwards Julian Salvi has been in imperious form as well as Lions newcomers Geoff Parling and Tom Youngs. Tom Croft is always a man that the Tigers can rely on at crunch time.

For Northampton Saints: The scrumhalf and flyhalf pairing of Lee Dickson and Steven Myler have been crucial for the Saints and will need to produce an incredibly neat display against their international opposition. Newly promoted England captain Tom Wood has been immense for the Saints this season and will have to reproduce that form in this Final. Courtney Laws is also going to have to be influential as is the skipper Dylan Hartley.

Head to head: The most glaring head-to-head in this clash is the battle between the two British and Irish Lions hookers – Tom Youngs and Dylan Hartley. Both need to be accurate at the line-outs and provide go-forward in open play. Hartley has the added pressure of being the captain but he seems to have thrived on the responsibility this season. Lee Dickson and Ben Youngs is another important match-up as well as the battle of the boots between Flood and Myler.

Recent results:
2013: Leicester Tigers won 36-8, Franklin's Gardens
2012: Leicester Tigers won 16-12, Welford Road
2012: Leicester Tigers won 35-21, Franklin's Gardens
2011: Leicester Tigers won 30-25, Welford Road
2011: Leicester Tigers won 35-21, (semifinal) Franklin's Gardens
2011: Leicester Tigers won 27-16, Welford Road
2010: Northampton Saints won 27-19, Franklin's Gardens

Prediction: It is a Final which means that it could go either way but one cannot look past the experience of Leicester in finals and their previous record against the Saints in the past. The Saints are coming off a great win their semifinal against Saracens but when looking at the two teams it seems that Leicester has the class and the experience to win the game. Leicester to win by more than five but less than 10.

The teams:

Leicester Tigers: 15 Mathew Tait, 14 Niall Morris, 13 Manusamoa Tuilagi, 12 Anthony Allen, 11 Vereniki Goneva, 10 Toby Flood (captain), 9 Ben Youngs, 8 Jordan Crane, 7 Julian Salvi, 6 Tom Croft, 5 Geoff Parling, 4 Graham Kitchener, 3 Dan Cole, 2 Tom Youngs, 1 Logovi’i Mulipola.
Replacements: 16 Rob Hawkins, 17 Fraser Balmain, 18 Martin Castrogiovanni, 19 Ed Slater, 20 Steve Mafi, 21 Sam Harrison, 22 George Ford, 23 Matt Smith.

Northampton: 15 Ben Foden, 14 Ken Pisi, 13 James Wilson, 12 Luther Burrell, 11 Jamie Elliott, 10 Stephen Myler, 9 Lee Dickson, 8 Samu Manoa, 7 Tom Wood, 6 Phil Dowson, 5 Christian Day, 4 Courtney Lawes, 3 Brian Mujati, 2 Dylan Hartley (Captain), 1 Soane Tonga’Uiha.
Replacements: 16 Mike Haywood, 17 Alex Waller, 18 Tom Mercey, 19 Ben Nutley, 20 Gj Van Velze, 21 Martin Roberts, 22 Ryan Lamb, 23 George Pisi.

Date: Saturday, May 25
Venue: Twickenham, London
Kick-off: 15.00 (15.00 GMT)
Expected weather: Overcast day expected in the capital with maximum temp being 15°C and a low of 7°C
Referee: Wayne Barnes
Assistant referees: Greg Garner, JP Doyle
TMO: Graham Hughes

PV: 3
Preview: Premiership Final | Rugby365