The former Australia wing Lote Tuqiri is about to reinforce Leicester's battered and depleted squad. Though Leicester officials declined to confirm Tuqiri's capture last night, news that he had opted for a move to Welford Road on a short-term contract rather than London Irish dribbled out of Australia.
"I have no comment to make – it's not a story for me," said Richard Cockerill, the Leicester head coach. "If he has signed for us I'm delighted, but I've not seen him yet."
The 30-year-old, a try- scorer in the 2003 World Cup final, was spotted at the British High Commission in Canberra on Friday sorting out details of his work permit, and he could arrive in England in time to play for Leicester in Friday's showpiece game against South Africa at Welford Road.
Tuqiri has been playing low-level club rugby for West Harbour in Sydney since his international career came to an abrupt halt in July when the Australia Rugby Union terminated his central contract for alleged breaches of the players' code of conduct. He could play for Leicester until the end of the Six Nations, when the depth of their squad is likely to be tested again.
Leicester were without 19 front-line players for this game, but they still had sufficient experience in their squad to maintain a 13-month unbeaten home record with two opportunist tries from Lucas Amorosino and Anthony Allen and 19 points in kicks from Jeremy Staunton.
With so many major players missing this was never going to be a classic East Midlands derby, but what it lacked in quality it more than made up for in excitement and endeavour.
Northampton were under-powered in the absence of their first-choice front five, but did their best to move the ball wide. However, they struggled to make an impression while missing England's Ben Foden and Shane Geraghty.
The Leicester lock Richard Blaze, who was released by England to gain valuable game time with his club, was a late withdrawal with a recurrence of a foot injury. Blaze had two pins inserted in his right foot in an operation for a stress fracture during the summer and is still easing himself back into action.
Ben Kay, also released by England, played all but a minute of the game and the untried Calum Green, thrown in as Blaze's late replacement, did not let Leicester down at all.
With so many changes of personnel it was hardly surprising that it took Leicester a long time to settle, but they recovered quickly after Bruce Reihana had counter-attacked and set up the lock Christian Day for the opening try. The first two of Staunton's five penalties settled Leicester and Amorosino's try, from almost the length of the pitch, put them ahead.
Stephen Myler appeared to have carved open the Tigers with a darting run but he undid his good work with a sloppy pass that was snaffled by Allen, who unleashed Amorosino.
Two more Staunton penalties in a three-minute period gave Leicester a commanding lead, but Reihana rattled them with another powerful run down the right which set up Chris Ashton's try.
Northampton might have been expected to build on that score, but instead their only second-half points came from a penalty from Myler, though their scrum-half Lee Dickson's touchdown was only ruled out after the referee, Dave Pearson, went upstairs to the television match official. Dickson made the line but the replays showed that he was in touch before he grounded the ball.
It proved a crucial decision as it denied Northampton the chance to draw level, and the losing bonus point also disappeared when Allen capitalised on a stray pass as they over-stretched themselves in attack.
Leicester Hamilton; Amorosino (Hurrell, 79), Allen, Mauger (capt; Forsyth , 79), Murphy; Staunton, Grindal; Ayerza (Stankovich, 69) , Davies (Youngs, 77), Castrogiovanni (Cole, 77); Blaze, Kay (Armes, 79); Parling, Pienaar, Deacon (Hemingway, 66).
Northampton Reihana; Ashton, Clarke, Downey (Ansbro, 62), Diggin; Myler (Everitt, 65), Dickson (Dickens, 69) ; Dreyer (Vickers, 65), Sharman (Gray, 61), Tonga'uiha; Cannon (Easter, 55), Day; Dowson (capt), Best (Gray, 65), Wilson.
Referee: D Pearson (Northumberland).