Leicester 36 Saracens 23: International talk overshadows Leicester victory

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The Independent Online

The focus at Welford Road switched to the international scene after Tigers' hard-fought, but deserved victory over a battling Saracens.

While the win bolstered Leicester's Premiership campaign and ended a spell of one win in four matches, but it was the form of Tigers' scrum-half Harry Ellis and the future of Alan Gaffney, Saracens director of rugby, which occupied the mind after the final whistle.

Ellis, making only his second start and third appearance of the season, revealed some real class, certainly enough to cheer the England coach, Brian Ashton.

"The way Harry has come back, so strongly, is a reflection of his character," said Leicester coach Marcelo Loffreda. "It is an indication of how he thinks, how he feels. He is a passionate rugby man and he has made a big effort to come back from his knee injury and I have nothing but admiration and praise for him.

"I think Harry is a really outstanding player and I think he deserves consideration for England, although he needs to build up confidence in his body and forget about the injury. Then he will be ready to take that big step up to international rugby once more."

That big step is one which may well be made by Gaffney. The genial Australian steps down from his Saracens' post at the end of the season to make way for fellow countryman Eddie Jones.

Although Gaffney is remaining with the club as a consultant, the recent revelation that Ireland are considering appointing a specialist backs coach, has certainly caught Gaffney's eye.

And the fact that Eddie O'Sullivan's role as head coach is looking distinctly shaky after an indifferent Six Nations campaign by the Irish, leaves even greater possibilities for Gaffney.

"Obviously I will be looking for opportunities," admitted Gaffney. "I wouldn't put my hand up for a role with the Ireland team at the moment. I think Eddie has done a great job for the last six years."

"Ireland has problems, although they are still a good team, but there is work to be done there."

There is also work to be done with Saracens, who lacked Tigers' predatory precision – Tom Varndell and Seru Rabeni in particular, looked extremely sharp – and lacked a kicker of the calibre of Andy Goode, who overtook Newcastle's Jonny Wilkinson as the Premiership's leading scorer, his 21 points taking Goode to 1,425 overall.

Leicester: Tries Rabeni, Tuilagi; Conversions Goode 3; Penalties Goode 4; Drop Goal Goode.

Saracens: Tries Scarbrough, Russell; Conversions Jackson 2; Penalties Jackson 3.

Leicester: J Murphy; T Varndell, D Hipkiss, S Rabeni, A Tuilagi; A Goode, H Ellis; M Ayerza (B Stankovich, 20), M Davies (B Kayser, 59), J White, L Deacon, M Corry (capt; G Gillanders, 80+2), B Deacon, B Pienaar, J Crane.

Saracens: B Russell; R Haughton (R Penney, 6), D Scarbrough, A Farrell, K Ratuvou; G Jackson, N de Kock (capt; M Rauluni, 63); N Lloyd, A Kyriacou (M Cairns, 61), C Johnston (C Visagie, ht-65), C Jack, H Vyvyan, K Chesney, R Hill (D Barrell, 59), B Skirving.

Referee: S Davey (Sussex)

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