TheSaracens.com
INTO THE TIGERS' LAIR
By DG
October 24 2019

A trip to Welford Road was always been a pretty daunting experience for Saracens – until recent seasons when it has been somewhat less of a fortress. In fact you have to go back to the 2015-16 season to find the last Premiership win for Leicester at home to their London rivals.

After Saracens, Leicester are probably the club hardest hit by World Cup absentees. Their first choice half backs, Ben Youngs and George Ford, along with Johnny May, Manu Tuilagi, Ellis Genge and Dan Cole. These guys are as important to Tigers as our missing superstars. Add to that Thomas Lavanini (Argentina)  Sione Kalamafoni (Tonga) and Telusa Veainu (Tonga) and you can see where I’m coming from.

Tigers have had quite a turnover in playing staff this summer (remember the bad old days at Sarries). Out have gone Matt Toomua, Mike Williams, Graham Kitchener, Matthew Tait, Will Evans, Tom Varndell, James Voss, Matt Smith, Gareth Owen, Mike Fitzgerald, Brendan O’Connor, Valentino Mapapalangi, Joe Ford, Fred Tuilagi, Charlie Thacker, Campese Ma’afu, David Feao, Ross McMillan, Harry Mahoney, Leonardo Sarto and Clayton Blommetjies. (She pauses for breath).

In have come: Jordan Taufua, Noel Reid, E W Viljoen, Hanro Liebenberg, Jordan Coghlan, Calum Green, Jaco Taute, Charlie Clare, Nephi Leatigaga, Johnny McPhillips, Joe Thomas and Tomas Lavenini.

Leicester, like Sarries, began the new season with a defeat (although in their case away to Worcester) just missing out on the losing bonus point. They gave Premiership debuts to several of their new guys including E W Viljeon, Noel Reid, Calum Green and Hanro Liebenberg plus Nephi Leatigaga from the bench along with home-grown youngster Tommy Reffell. Kyle Eastmond was missing through ill health and Jaco Taute is rumoured to have a knee injury.

Tigers’ board asked the question as to when the 2 teams last met at Welford Road outside the International window and decided it was probably the semi-final in 2012. Far be it for me to disagree! But it does seem a shame that these games are so often reduced to reserve team affairs by the absence of our top Internationals. Tigers’ board suggest they have only won 4 of their last 19 games against Sarries in all competitions.

So what sort of team will Tigers put out? A Leicester correspondent suggests:

Veainu, Thompstone, Viljoen, Eastmond, Olowofela, Reid, White, Bateman, Youngs, Leatigaga, Spencer, Green, Liebenberg, Reffell, Thompson. Who am I to argue?

As for Sarries? No one will be panicking yet but a win would be nice and given Tigers’ absentees, this has to be something we should target. Rumour has it Rhodes may be fit and hopefully Brad could be back, maybe even Figallo (after Titi’s mammoth effort last week he deserves a bit of a break). Do we actually have 2 fit hookers? Will we be tempted to bring in either of our Scots? Is Wiggy ready to return (although we really do need Spenno’s boot)? Has Skelton recovered from playing all but 2 minutes last weekend? Possibly Taylor on the bench? I’d love to bring Maitland back on the wing but I doubt if he’s fit. So fingers crossed something like:

Gallagher, Maitland, Tompkins, Barritt, Lewington, Goode, Spencer, Barrington, Woolstencroft, Figallo, Skelton, Isiekwe, Rhodes, Earl, Wray

Our referee this week is Tom Foley. Not a favourite of mine and someone we often seem to end up on the wrong side of. The Welford Road crowd will leave him in no doubt as to their view of events I am sure! I’m hoping for a win, but I’m not really expecting one.