Thursday, 26 November 2009

Not So Cocky: Leicester Tigers vs Leeds Carnegie Preview

When Leeds Carnegie roll into Welford Road this Saturday for their next installment of the Guinness Premiership, they will have to strain their ears in order to hear the distant crowing of the suspended Richard Cockerill.  With his place firmly reserved on the naughty step, it's nice of Cockers to step aside and herald the return of the Leicester old guard and watch Neil Back and Andy Key lead the much improved Leeds Carnegie side onto the turf of the Champions.

His lips are sealed

Of course it's not just Back and Key who used to haunt the locker room at Welford Road.  This Saturday's game is a trip down memory lane for three members of the Leeds squad, at least two of which are likely to start against their old club.  Leeds captain Marco Wentzl completed a recce of the new look Welford Road a couple of weeks ago when he moonlighted as a pundit and watched Leicester topple a lacklustre South Africa, and I'm sure the returning Wentzl, Rabeni and Moreno will all raise their game if they are selected to run out in front of the impressive new Caterpillar Stand.

Whisperings on the Leicester Tigers message board have hinted that this weekend's game might well see the return of hulking man mountain Alesana Tuilagi.  If that's the case then I fully expect to see a powerful running game from the Tigers with Seru Rabeni doing his best to neutralise the epic Samoan.  The return of Tuilagi really is something Leeds could do without.  Add Leicester's returning England stars into the mix along with a fit Toby Flood and it seems that the Tigers lying in wait to maul Leeds this weekend are a much more formidable challenge than the team of cubs that Leeds tamed at Headingley in the LV= Cup second round.


However don't write Leeds Carnegie off just yet.  Historically Leeds have always been a bit of a bogey team for Leicester, and with a bit of the old Leicester magic, drive and belief instilled by Neil Back, Leeds might well have a few surprises up their sleeve.  OK so Leeds started the season slowly, but their recent form in the Guinness Premiership speaks for itself.  Last weekend they should have beaten Sale after playing some incisive rugby, but Leeds faded after half time and allowed Charlie Hodgson to get a grip on the game.  (I'm sure that's something Backy will have stamped out this week).  Had it not been for an incorrectly disallowed try Leeds would have beaten Saracens at Vicarage Road, however they took the momentum from that close encounter down to Adams Park where they ground out a well deserved victory against Wasps.  Welford Road might be an intimidating place to go, but as Marco Wentzl said: "We will go there with confidence."

So what are the key battles this weekend?  Personally I hope for an epic encounter between the two openside flankers, provided that Lewis Moody and Hendre Fourie both start.  Moody is considered by many as the one shining beacon of hope for England in a dismal series of November tests, whilst the highly rated Fourie is arguably Leeds's best player and was named Player of the Year last season.  The battle of the tens will also be one to watch, with Leeds's Ceiron Thomas growing into a solid number ten who isn't afraid to throw himself around the park.  It will be interesting to see how he matches up against the flair of Toby Flood.

Who will win the battle of the openside?

I'm not going to venture a prediction as I'd much prefer to perch uncomfortably on the fence and pull the splinters out of my arse.  However, I don't think Leeds are going to be the walkover that everyone might have expected at the start of the season.

No comments:

Post a Comment