Leicester v Northampton preview: Team news, kick-off time, line-ups and stats for the Aviva Premiership clash
Leicester are looking to bounce back against Northampton on Saturday: 15:15 kick-off
The Tigers include fit-again fly-half Owen Williams and bring in England front row duo Tom Youngs and Dan Cole
Saints make two changes to the side that beat Exeter
Fourth-placed Leicester Tigers do battle with the fifth-placed Northampton Saints in the Aviva Premiership in front of a record sell-out crowd at Welford Road.
Just four points separate the East Midlands rivals going into the Round 9 match in the Aviva Premiership season in a game which always excites coaches, players and supporters alike.
With the new Caterpillar Stand open to its full capacity for the first time, Saturday’s game will be watched by a record league crowd for Welford Road of 25,849.
Saints recorded a fourth win of the league season in beating Exeter Chiefs at Franklin’s Gardens, while Tigers lost for only the second time, away to Saracens.
Leicester include fit-again fly-half Owen Williams and bring in England front-row duo Tom Youngs and Dan Cole.
Peter Betham, Matt Smith and Adam Thompstone all start after missing the defeat by Saracens.
Northampton make two changes to the side that beat Exeter, with captain Lee Dickson in at scrum-half for Kahn Fotuali’i, who drops out of the 23.
Jamie Elliott starts on the right wing, while Tom Wood and Tom Kessell are named among the replacements.
Leicester Tigers director of rugby Richard Cockerill told BBC Leicester Sport: “It’s probably the biggest rivalry in rugby union. When I first came here in the early 1990s, the first thing that was drilled in to me was that we don’t lose to Northampton.
“We don’t like them and that’s how it is; get used to it. And I am used to it.
“Over the last two decades I have been at the club it’s always been a Leicester-Saints rivalry with the passion, and the word hatred in the sporting sense, and the bragging rights.”
Northampton Saints flanker Jamie Gibson told BBC Radio Northampton: “The rivalry between the clubs is so stark, the game is unlike any other.
“The atmosphere in training both here and there has that edge to it and both sides hate losing it.
“Over the last 10 to 15 games Leicester have probably won more, but over the last two or three years they’ve lost the big games.
“A lot of people also know each other well, whether it be through England or through other teams like Samoa.”
Northampton ended a three-game winless run with their 8-3 victory at home to Exeter Chiefs on New Year’s Day but have not hit the heights of last season so far this campaign
The Tigers meanwhile have won their last 11 home games in Premiership Rugby – but did see their seven-game winning run in all tournaments halted last time out by Saracens
Each club won its respective home game when the two East Midlands rivals clashed in Premiership Rugby last season whilst Northampton have not been victorious at Welford Road in any competition since a 10-9 win in Premiership Rugby in February 2007
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Leicester: Ben Youngs
Northampton: Ben Foden
Leicester: 15 Telusa Veainu, 14 Peter Betham, 13 Mathew Tait, 12 Matt Smith, 11 Adam Thompstone, 10 Owen Williams, 9 Ben Youngs, 8 Lachlan McCaffrey, 7 Brendon O’Connor, 6 Mike Fitzgerald, 5 Graham Kitchener, 4 Sebastian de Chaves, 3 Dan Cole, 2 Tom Youngs (c), 1 Marcos Ayerza
Replacements: 16 Harry Thacker, 17 Logovi’i Mulipola, 18 Fraser Balmain, 19 Laurence Pearce, 20 Tom Croft, 21 Sam Harrison, 22 Freddie Burns, 23 Vereniki Goneva
Northampton: 15 Ben Foden, 14 Jamie Elliott, 13 George North, 12 Luther Burrell, 11 Tom Collins, 10 JJ Hanrahan, 9 Lee Dickson (c), 8 Sam Dickinson, 7 Teimana Harrison, 6 Jamie Gibson, 5 Victor Matfield, 4 Courtney Lawes, 3 Paul Hill, 2 Mikey Haywood, 1 Alex Waller
Replacements: 16 Dylan Hartley, 17 Ethan Waller, 18 Gareth Denman, 19 Christian Day, 20 Tom Wood, 21 Tom Kessell, 22 Stephen Myler, 23 Harry Mallinder
Date: Saturday, January 9
Venue: Welford Road
Kick-off: 15:15 GMT
Referee: Wayne Barnes
Assistant Referees: Tim Wigglesworth, Peter Allan
TMO: Sean Davey