Premiership final: Leicester Tigers v Saracens – Richard Wigglesworth starts against old club
|Venue: Twickenham Stadium Date: Saturday, 18 June. Kick-off: 15:00 BST Coverage: Updates on BBC Radio 5 Live, BBC local radio and live text on the BBC Sport website|
Veteran scrum-half Richard Wigglesworth will replace Ben Youngs in Leicester Tigers’ starting XV for Saturday’s Premiership final against Saracens.
Youngs drops to the bench with 39-year-old Wigglesworth given the nod against a side where he won five Premiership titles and three European Cups.
Prop Mako Vunipola will make his 200th Saracens appearance in the final.
Sarries make one change from their semi-final win against Harlequins, with lock Nick Isiekwe coming into the side.
Isiekwe replaces former Scotland international Tim Swinson, who is left out of the squad in what was to be his final match before retirement.
Wigglesworth, who joined Leicester in 2020 after a decade in north London with Saracens, has started just seven games for Tigers this season – with Youngs the first choice, having started last Saturday’s semi-final win against Northampton.
Winger Chris Ashton, another former England international and Premiership winner at Saracens, also starts against his former club.
Their inclusions add to the already strong links between the two sides, with Tigers head coach Steve Borthwick a title winner at Saracens himself.
Saracens reached the final in their first season back in the Premiership, following relegation for persistently breaching salary cap regulations, with a 34-17 win against London rivals Harlequins at the StoneX Stadium last weekend.
That punishment spared Leicester Tigers the drop in 2020, with Leicester only finishing above Saracens in the table that season.
Biggest game of my career – Genge
Tigers captain Ellis Genge – who, along with George Ford, will leave the club after Saturday’s final – said it has taken “a lot of hard work”, as well as “time and good people” to get Leicester to their first Premiership final for nine years.
The England prop, who will join Bristol next term, said the two seasons spent battling at the bottom of the table “were horrible and not nice to be part of”, but added that he refused to leave while the club struggled.
“I made a pact a long time ago that I would never leave Tigers if they were in a dark hole,” he said.
“I had all sorts of offers in 2017, 2018 and 2019 to go elsewhere when we were bottom of the pile, and I said I wanted to stick it out and see brighter days.
“I’ve still got my stuff in the changing rooms. I haven’t packed up, I still live up here, and I’ve got the biggest game of my career on Saturday.”
While Tigers have turned that around under head coach Borthwick, who guided them to a sixth-place finish last season before taking them to the summit this term, Genge emphasised how difficult the climb back to the top has been.
“It’s probably easier to lose than it is to win, especially when you are on a massive losing streak – no-one expects you to do anything,” he said.
“The hard bit is changing the habits and actually starting to win, which you have seen us do this year.
“It didn’t happen straight away, it was a lot of hard work and lot of good people putting their time in – a lot of time away from the scenes, outside of working hours – to get us to where we are.”
Can Saracens cap return with sixth title?
Saracens are aiming for a sixth Premiership title at Twickenham on Saturday.
Centre Elliot Daly says he is constantly learning and developing from playing alongside the likes of experienced internationals Owen Farrell, Jamie George and Mako Vunipola in the star-studded Sarries side.
The versatile England back, 29, is set to play in his second Premiership final, having lost 23-20 to Exeter, after extra time, when playing for Wasps in 2016-17.
“I’m an experienced player but the likes of Jamie [George], Faz [Farrell] and Mako [Vunipola] have been to five, six, seven finals and their conversion rate from getting to finals to actually winning is amazing,” he told BBC Radio London.
“It’s a brilliant lesson for me to lean into these guys. I’m experienced, but not in these situations, so it’s nice to see how much we can get out of them to push us forward to the weekend.
“It’s massive for me to win trophies with Saracens and hopefully we’ll win one on Saturday.”
Saracens returned to the Premiership at the first time of asking, beating Ealing Trailfinders in last season’s Championship final.
They finished this season second in the table and as the league’s top scorers, with winger Max Malins scoring a league-high 16 tries and flanker Ben Earl named Premiership player of the season.
South African World Cup winner Vincent Koch is set to play his final game before moving to Wasps on a “long-term contract” next season.
- This is Leicester’s 10th Premiership final appearance, but their first since 2013. They have won four of those encounters. Saracens are one of only four clubs to have beaten the Tigers in the Premiership this term – the others were Wasps, Sale and Harlequins.
- Leicester have lost just one of their last five matches at Twickenham in the Premiership, 27-21 to Bath in April 2017. Tigers have won only one of their last four finals at Twickenham in all tournaments – against Northampton in the 2013 Premiership final.
- This is Saracens’ eighth Premiership final appearance, winning on five previous occasions (2011, 2015, 2016, 2018 and 2019). Sarries’ only defeat in their last nine Premiership matches was a 54-7 loss at Gloucester in round 26.
- Saracens’ only loss in their last six encounters with the Tigers was 13-12 on 2 October. The two clubs have met twice before at Twickenham – the Premiership final in 2010 and 2011 – with each side winning once.
Leicester Tigers: Steward; Ashton, Moroni, Porter, Potter; Ford, Wigglesworth; Genge (capt), Montoya, Cole, Chessum, Green, Liebenberg, Reffell, Wiese.
Replacements: Clare, Leatigaga, Heyes, Wells, Martin, Youngs, Burns, Scott.
Saracens: Goode; Malins, Daly, Tompkins, Maitland; Farrell (capt), Davies; M Vunipola, George, Koch, Itoje, Isiekwe, McFarland, Earl, B Vunipola.
Replacements: Pifeleti, Mawi, Clarey, Wray, Christie, Van Zyl, Taylor, Lozowski.
Referee: Wayne Barnes.