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Internationals return for Northampton Saints v Leicester Tigers

Whatever the outcome of the Saints v Tigers clash today I’m predicting one thing at least will be proven – that top flight rugby is better than top flight football.

Here’s why. Both sides suffered opening round defeats that featured a fightback that came too late and elements of extra suffering.  For Saints the completeness of the first half drubbing was the additional pain. For Tigers the extra hurt was squandering their awesome home record against Bath.

The fans of both clubs will have their backs to an emotional precipice as two proud but wounded beasts run out for a fixture that was already likely to be explosive but somehow now the stakes have been raised even higher.

If this was football there is every chance two sets of well drilled and highly skilled Premiership players would squeak out a tightly controlled draw. Maybe 1-1.

No-one who has shown even a passing interest in rugby’s legendary East Midlands derby is expecting that.

Both sides will be fielding returning internationals at 4.30pm. George North is back in for Northampton and Dan Cole will slot into the front row in his first start for Leicester after coming off the bench against Bath.

Australia international centre Rob Horne makes his first team debut for Saints with South Africa international scrum-half Cobus Reinach on the bench. Teimana Harrison also gets his first start of the season.

Tom Wood is out with a shoulder injury while for Leicester Manu Tuilagi faces another stretch out of the game, needing 12 weeks after knee surgery during the week.

Northampton Director of Rugby Jim Mallinder said: “You’ll see a knee jerk reaction. I’ll be so disappointed if the players don’t react. I think Leicester anyway focuses your mind without a doubt but we need, and we will see a reaction on Saturday.”

Tigers Head Coach Matt O’Connor said: “Everyone enjoys derby day, the intensity around it is fantastic and hopefully it brings out the best in both sides. We had more than enough opportunities to win the game last week but we were inaccurate in parts and we have to rectify that. It was disappointing that we didn’t execute those chances to top off the work that had been done.”

Saints

15 Ahsee Tuala
14 George North
13 Rob Horne
12 Luther Burrell
11 Tom Collins
10 Harry Mallinder
9 Nic Groom
1 Alex Waller
2 Dylan Hartley (capt)
3 Kieran Brookes
4 Michael Paterson
5 Christian Day
6 Courtney Lawes
7 Jamie Gibson
8 Teimana Harrison

Bench
16 Mikey Haywood
17 Campese Ma’afu
18 Paul Hill
19 Api Ratuniyarawa
20 Lewis Ludlam
21 Cobus Reinach
22 James Grayson
23 Ben Foden

Leicester

15 Telusa Veainu
14 Nick Malouf
13 Matt Smith
12 Matt Toomua
11 Jonny May
10 George Ford
9 Ben Youngs
1 Ellis Genge
2 Tom Youngs (c)
3 Dan Cole
4 Dom Barrow
5 Graham Kitchener
6 Luke Hamilton
7 Brendon O’Connor
8 Sione Kalamafoni

Bench
16 Harry Thacker
17 Greg Bateman
18 Logovi’i Mulipola
19 Mike Williams
20 Dominic Ryan
21 Sam Harrison
22 Joe Ford
23 Mathew Tait

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