Richard Cockerill made a brave attempt to throw the media off the scent of the main story at Welford Road on Saturday evening, but the Leicester head coach was fooling no one.
Lote Tuqiri, the 67-times capped former Australia wing, has opted for a short-term contract with Leicester ahead of other offers from London Irish and Toulon. Tuqiri, who lost his central contract with Australia in July because of an alleged breach of the team's disciplinary code, is due to switch back to rugby league with the Western Tigers next year but he will be available to Leicester until the end of the Six Nations.
With an official announcement of Tuqiri's capture expected this week, Cockerill was reluctant to let the Tiger out of the bag. "I have no comment to make, it's not a story as far as I am concerned," he said, before adding: "If there are stories saying he has signed, then I'm delighted, but I haven't seen him yet."
Tuqiri's signing will bring significant experience to a squad that was reduced to the bare bones by international call-ups and injuries. So stretched were the Tigers that they recalled four players from loan deals with Championship clubs, and one of them, lock Calum Green, was thrown in for his first Premiership start when Richard Blaze withdrew with a recurrence of a foot injury.
Blaze, one of three uncapped players in England's international squad, had been released with the aim of proving his fitness. His absence here will not have enhanced his claims for a first cap. "Richard could probably have played, but the sensible thing and the right thing was for him not to," Cockerill said.
Green, who has been learning his trade with Nottingham, filled the gap admirably. There was no lack of effort from Leicester, notably up front where Marcos Ayerza and Martin Castrogiovanni dominated a depleted Northampton front five, but they still owed their victory to two opportunist tries and 19 points from Jeremy Staunton's boot.
Anthony Allen snaffled a careless pass from Stephen Myler to set up Lucas Amorosino's long-range first and then intercepted a speculative one from Barry Everitt to score himself.
Jim Mallender, the Northampton director of rugby admitted that moments of "stupidity" denied his side the chance ofvictory, though they contributed fully to a rousing derby.
Leicester: Tries Amorosino, Allen; Conversions Staunton (2); Penalties Staunton (5). Northampton: Tries Day, Ashton; Conversion Myler; Penalty Myler.
Leicester: S Hamilton; L Amorosino (W Hurrell 79), A Allen, A Mauger (capt) (A Forsyth 79), J Murphy; J Staunton, J Grindal (B Youngs 53); M Ayerza (B Stankovich 69), M Davies (T Youngs 76), M Castrogiovanni (D Cole 76), C Green, B Kay (T Armes 79), G Parling, B Pienaar, B Deacon (D Hemingway 50-56 & 66).
Northampton: B Reinhana; C Ashton, J Clarke, J Downey ( J Ansbro 62), P Diggin; S Myler (B Everitt 65), L Dickson (A Dickens 69); R Dreyer (J Vickers 65), B Sharman (J Gray 61), S Tonga'uiha, J Cannon M Easter 56), C Day, P Dowson (capt), N Best (S Gray 65), R Wilson.
Referee: D Pearson (Ashington).Reuse content