Friday, September 3, 2010

Leicester set for title defence

Venue: Franklin's Gardens Date: Sunday, 05 September Kick-off: 1500 BST
Coverage: Live commentary on BBC local radio & BBC Sport website

Northampton v Leicester

Premiership champions Leicester kick off the defence of their title with a mouth-watering East Midlands derby against Northampton.

Saints hand a debut to flanker Tom Wood and start with Stephen Myler at fly-half, while last season's leading try-scorer Chris Ashton is on the wing.

Tigers are without Richard Blaze, Jordan Crane, Tom Croft, Louis Deacon and Geoff Parling through injury.

Summer signings George Skivington and Thomas Waldrom make their debuts.

Saints will be desperate to get one over their fierce rivals in front of a sell-out crowd at Franklin's Gardens and the Tigers' early season injury problems should provide them with plenty of incentive.

Ashton, Ben Foden and Courtney Lawes will be boosted by impressive outings with England down under during the summer.

Myler is sure to want to make a case for keeping hold of the Saints number 10 shirt this term ahead of Shane Geraghty.

The Tigers will again be skippered by Ireland full-back Geordan Murphy in his 14th season with the club.

Much will be expected of debutants Skivington and Waldrom who arrived at Welford Road over the summer with big reputations.

Nothampton Saints director of rugby Jim Mallinder told BBC Radio Northampton:
"We had a cracking season last season but we lost quite a few of the big games.

"The experience of playing in the big games last season and experience of playing for England for a lot of these players should help benefit the team."

Leicester director of rugby Richard Cockerill told BBC Radio Leicester:
"They are a tough team to beat at Franklin's Gardens, a tough side to play full stop.

"It's always interesting that first game when nobody has really settled into anything. Maybe the pressure is on them a little bit to win at home.

"They are always a side where the sum of the parts is stronger than the individual and they still have some very good individuals too. They have some quality across the field so we know their threats and are respectful of them."

Northampton: Foden, Ashton, Clarke, Downey, Reihana, Myler, Dickson, Tonga'uiha, Hartley (c), Mujati, Lawes, Day, Dowson, Wood, Wilson.
Replacements: Sharman, Dreyer, Mercey, Clark, Easter, Powell, Geraghty, Ansbro.

Leicester: Murphy (c), Hamilton, Hipkiss, Allen, A Tuilagi, Flood, Youngs, Ayerza, Chuter, Castrogiovanni, Green, Skivington, Newby, Woods, Waldrom.
Replacements : Duffey, Stankovich, Cole, Slater, Pienaar, Grindal, Staunton, M Tuilagi.

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