Leicester Tigers v Harlequins, Aviva Premiership semi-final
Robshaw forced to sit out semi-final
May 10, 2013
Tom Croft scores for Leicester in their final match of the regular season © Getty Images
Leicester Tigers will go into Saturday's Aviva Premiership semi-final looking to make amends for last season's final loss against Conor O'Shea's men.
It was the game that signalled what many perceived to be a new era of Quins dominance. They had a strong crux of England-qualified players at the core of the side, with that added drop of brilliance from their masterful Kiwi fly-half Nick Evans.
However, they have failed to hit the same heights this term - they were outplayed in the Heineken Cup quarter-finals, and also suffered three losses in February. But they have re-found their swagger at the key time in the season and finished off the regular campaign with a morale-boosting win over fellow play-off rivals Northampton Saints at the Stoop.
For Leicester, it has been another hugely impressive campaign from Richard Cockerill's men. Players such as Tom Youngs, Ed Slater and Mathew Tait have been central to their good form and it is testament to how well they have played this season that the Dream Team announced at Thursday's Aviva Premiership awards had eight Tigers in its ranks.
But that will not be enough for Cockerill, far from it. He will be smarting from two Premiership final losses on the bounce and will want to end this season with some silverware.
Leicester Tigers - Player to Watch: Mathew Tait is starting to show the same sort of form that propelled him into the 2007 World Cup reckoning. He has struggled with injury over the past few years but this term, he has shone at fullback for the Tigers.
Leicester Tigers - Team News: Tait and Dan Cole return to the Leicester Tigers starting line-up after they were benched for their Round 22 game against London Irish. Toby Flood will lead out the team as captain while Ed Slater misses the game through injury.
Harlequins - Player to Watch: Openside Luke Wallace has massive boots to fill with Chris Robshaw missing out on selection due to injury. Wallace was superb in guiding Quins to the Anglo-Welsh Cup title but this is another level up.
Harlequins - Team News: Robshaw has failed a late fitness test as he continues to recover from an injury sustained against Worcester Warriors in Round 21. In the back row Wallace continues at openside flanker with Maurie Fa'asavalu at blindside, one of two changes to the starting line-up, along with captain and number 8 Nick Easter. The second change sees Joe Gray starting at hooker where he is joined in the front row with Joe Marler and James Johnston.
Danny Care crosses against Worcester © Getty Images
Key Battle: Danny Care's tussle with Ben Youngs at half-back should be a joy to watch. Young will become a British & Irish Lion come the summer while Care has been left out of the Lions squad and told to rest by England boss Stuart Lancaster. Something will have to give in the battle at No.9 and should have a bearing on the eventual outcome of the game.
Trivia: Leicester Tigers have won their last twelve semi-final matches in all competitions since Wasps beat them, 22-17, at the Millennium Stadium in the last four of the Anglo-Welsh Cup in March 2006.
Stats: Harlequins have won their last three fixtures against the Tigers, including last season's final at Twickenham - in addition, Quins have triumphed on their last two visits to Welford Road, denying the Tigers even a losing bonus point on each occasion.
Betting: Leicester are 4/11 favourites to take the match with bet365 while Quins are on offer for 11/5.
"That loss in the final was a game I will always regret. It was horrific, especially seeing as we had gone into it in brilliant form and had a bonus-point win at The Stoop only a few weeks before the final. It was absolutely gutting. It was as bad as I have felt. It stayed with me all summer and will probably stay with me for the whole of my career. Now, we want to put it right." - Tigers lock Geoff Parling in the Leicester Mercury
"This would be a greater achievement than last year. The way we have defended our title and the way the players have gone about it so far is a credit to them. Teams always seem to have their best sides out against us and play with intent and intensity, but we've kept on coming back." - Harlequins coach Conor O'Shea in the Richmond and Twickenham Times
Prediction: Leicester should have enough about them to overcome Harlequins and book their place in the final - but it will be a narrow margin of victory.
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