Leicester Tigers return to NW4 just over a month since their last visit which saw them fail to win again at Allianz Park, missing out on the home semi-final which they were hoping to claim having qualified with a game to spare.
Whilst Saracens seem assured to stay with the line up which got them here, not only preparing the wider squad for the decisive moments of the future in the Premiership and Europe but keeping within the development spirit of the competition, Leicester's approach is less clear. A season at times troubled, particularly around the turn of the year, could perhaps be rescued by the East Midlands side reprising their 2007 and 2012 wins in the forerunner to this tournament. On the other hand, results since that early February meeting have raised hopes that the Tigers can make their customary late charge into the top four of the Premiership with three straight wins until Exeter visited last Friday and came away with a vital bonus point victory which was of much significance to Saracens' hopes. Trips to Northampton Saints and Bath are daunting, but place their destiny in their own hands.
The first of the three Premiership wins was a comfortable 34-9 home win over Gloucester as Luke Hamilton scored an early try, augmented by a penalty try, Adam Thompstone with the third and the bonus point score emerging right at the end through replacement Maxime Mermoz; the home pack ominously back to its best. Bristol were the visitors for the following match, and the Tigers cashed in by earning a 50-17 win with seven tries scored in all. The most impressive success of the trio came in the 27-18 win at Harlequins which featured tries from Freddie Burns and Sam Harrison, as well as a penalty try. However, the growing momentum was halted by a 34-15 home reverse to Exeter Chiefs as they faild to cope with the forward power of the visitors.
Selection conundrums apply particularly in the context of the Saracens' selection being adjusted to accommodate England under 20 duty which would mean that Max Malins and Dom Morris (at least) are likely to be unavailable. But with an emphasis on as much continuity as possible, a predicted line up is Matt Gallagher at full back, with the wings occupied by Mike Ellery and Nathan Earle, outside a centre partnership of Tim Streather and Nick Tompkins. Tom Whiteley could come in at fly half, alongside Ben Spencer. Forwards-wise, a possible pack features Titi Lamositele, Scott Spurling and Vincent Koch, with Mark Flanagan alongside Fa'atigu Lemalu at lock, and a back row trio of Kelly Brown, Joel Conlon and Samu Vunisa. Leicester could opt for George Worth at full back, Tom Brady and George Catchpole on the wings, outside the centres of Charlie Thacker and Mermoz, with a half back duo of Burns and Harrison. Pack-wise, a possible front row includes Michele Rizzo, George McGuigan and Patrick Cilliers, with Harry Wells and Dom Barrow at lock and a back row trio of Mike Williams, Harry Tahcker and Hamilton.
We won't see Spurling unfortunately as he's out for the season, but I thought I'd read Isiwieke is not with England so would hopefully come into the starting line up.
Might also see Will again if he's fit.
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