Twickenham braced for East Midlands invasion

Yahoo! Contributor Network

Twickenham plays host this weekend to the Aviva Premiership's showpiece event as the East Midlands' top two clubs relocate themselves to South West London for the grand final.

It is an intriguing match-up not only because of the mammoth individual battles, but also because it is a fixture that brings with it all the history, tension and passion of a local rivalry. The Leicester Tigers love nothing more than getting one over the Northampton Saints, and vice versa.

It is the first time Northampton have reached the end-of-season finale; conversely, it is Leicester's ninth consecutive Premiership final. On top of that, a little over a month ago the Tigers smashed the Saints 36-8 in their own back yard, Franklin's Gardens. With the Tigers in ominous form at this most crucial part of the season once again, is the result a foregone conclusion?

Far, far from it. Anyone who watched the Saints' astonishing dismantling of Saracens - the regular season leaders - in the semi-final will know that they have found some sort of inner belief that has been lacking at this stage in the past. Not many outside of Northampton saw them coming through that one, and yet they did.

Spurred on by their new mantra - 'Why not us?' - they brought a physicality and aggression to the game that simply blew the Saracens away. Nobody in a Tigers shirt - player or fan - will be anticipating an easy game.

And what of the men from Leicester? They always manage to time their run to perfection to make it to Twickenham, but have lost the last two of these finals. They will be desperate to win this one, fearful of attaining the tag of 'chokers'.

There are mouth-watering match-ups wherever you look. Dylan Hartley vs Tom Youngs pits two of the feistiest fighting hookers around against each other; add to that the fact they are both vying for a Lions test jersey this summer and there is the potential for fireworks.

The set piece will be vital, and in Christian Day and Geoff Parling two of the best lineout operators in the land are on show. Julian Salvi is, for many, the best player in the Premiership and his battle at the breakdown with newly appointed England captain Tom Wood will determine who has quick, front foot ball.

Lee Dickson is a yappy little scrum-half who will look to get under opposite number Ben Youngs' skin, but the Leicester man has the pace and vision to hurt the Saints if given the space and time. Manu Tuilagi vs George Pisi is box office stuff, and in Ben Foden and Mat Tait both teams have counterattacking fullbacks.

Whatever the result, the Aviva Premiership is all set for a fantastically ferocious finale as the Midlands brings its colour, passion and rivalry to London.

Follow Jamie Hosie on Twitter: @jhosie43

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