Leicester Tigers will welcome reigning champions Harlequins in the first of this weekend’s Aviva Premiership semi-finals which will determine who will feature at Twickenham in the May 25 final.
Harlequins beat the Tigers in last year's final 30-23 thanks to tries from Tom Williams and Chris Robshaw, but the current England captain heads into the game as an injury concern having missed last week's victory over Northampton Saints.
Robshaw, who missed out on selection for this summer's British and Irish Lions squad, will also miss England's tour to Argentina as the flanker will be given a rest after a frantic two years that has seen him rise to the top of the game. Saints' Tom Wood will replace Robshaw as captain for the tour, which has raised questions as to whether Robshaw will regain the captaincy when he returns to the squad.
But he will be focused on defeating Leicester, who have not missed out on a Premiership final for the last eight years, having gone on to win three of those that feature in a list of nine championship wins - more than any other English club.
Tigers will want their revenge, and not just for the defeat in last season's final. Quins have beaten the home-side in their last two visits to Welford Road, a stadium seen some-what as a fortress for the midland club, and their fans will expect another semi-final win to go with their last 12 consecutive semi-final wins.
With six Lions players on show for Leicester - Dan Cole, Tom Youngs, Geoff Parling, Tom Croft, Ben Youngs and Manu Tuilagi - Harlequins enter the match with not a single 2013 Lion in their squad, though wing Ugo Monye did feature in the test side on the 2009 tour to South Africa which will act as a reminder that Harlequins can be clinical finishers when they are at their best.
Leicester club captain Geordan Murphy announced this week that he will be retiring at the end of the season, and the full-back will want to out with a bang after a 17-year career that has seen him turn out for the Tigers 322 times with his last appearance coming in last week's victory over London Irish.
It will also be a fond farewell from the Welford Road faithful to prop Martin Castrogiovanni, who is widely expected to join Toulon for next season to replace the outgoing Gethin Jenkins. Having spent seven years with the Tigers, the Italian will move on having amassed over 100 appearances, and his presence will be missed for such a popular player among the stands.
Previous three meetings...
Harlequins 25 Leicester Tigers 21, Aviva Premiership, February 16 2013
Leicester Tigers 9 Harlequins 22, Aviva Premiership, September 22 2012
Harlequins 30 Leicester Tigers 23, Aviva Premiership final May 26 2012
TV: Leicester Tigers v Harlequins is live on Sky Sports 1 at 3pm on Saturday.
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- Mark Tucker