Premiership semi-final: Toby Flood back in the fold as Leicester Tigers call for old guard

Nine players rested for last weekend's league victory over Saracens have been recalled to the starting line-up to face Northampton

rugby union correspondent

Toby Flood, something of a marginalised figure at Leicester since confirming plans to play Top 14 rugby in France next season, will be back in the thick of things on Friday night when the reigning English champions square up to Northampton in a highly charged Premiership semi-final at Franklin's Gardens.

The England international outside-half has been selected ahead of Welsh playmaker Owen Williams and will be expected to plot a route through the most hazardous of rugby minefields.

Leicester have not been shy in summoning their most experienced hands: nine players rested for last weekend's league victory over Saracens have been recalled to the starting line-up, including the Fijian wing Vereniki Goneva, the Lions scrum-half Ben Youngs, the Argentine prop Marcos Ayerza and the uncapped English lock Ed Slater, who reclaims the captaincy from Louis Deacon. Another of the Youngs brothers, hooker Tom, returns to the front row a few days after announcing that he will miss England's summer tour of New Zealand to help nurse his wife, who has fallen ill.

Northampton have also made changes for this eagerly awaited collision: the centre George Pisi, the scrum-half Kahn Fotuali'i, the lock Samu Manoa and the flanker Tom Wood all start after being benched for last week's runaway victory over Wasps. The inclusion of Fotuali'i ahead of Lee Dickson suggests that the Samoan international has won his season-long battle for supremacy.

The last time a Midlands derby was played under knock-out rules, all hell broke loose. The scene was Twickenham almost a year ago; the occasion was the Premiership final. Dylan Hartley, the Northampton captain, was sent off for calling the referee a "cheat", prefixing the word with a well-known Anglo-Saxonism, and Leicester took full advantage to win 37-17.

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