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Final showdown

The key battles at Twickenham

By Tony Curtis - Follow me on Twitter: @SkysportsTC.   Last Updated: 22/05/12 7:07pm

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Ahead of the Aviva Premiership final between Leicester and Saracens, looks at the keys areas where the game will be won and lost at Twickenham.


Leicester are the dogged veterans of Aviva Premiership final campaigns, with Saturday marking their eight consecutive trip to Twickenham, stretching back to 2005.

The Tigers might have only won three of those previous seven encounters but they know only too well what to expect, while they can also count on four Heineken Cup final appearances over the past 12 years.

The squad itself is packed full of experienced campaigners, with George Chuter having made 251 Premiership appearances, while Geordan Murphy has turned out 192 times in the league.

Harlequins, on the other hand, might be one of the most famous names - and icons - in the game, but they have struggled to compete for silverware since the advent of the league system.

Their best finish in the Premiership came in 2009 when they finished as runners-up - and then losing to London Irish in the play-off semi-final - although they have won the second-tier European competition (in its various formats) on three occasions.

While the Quins have one or two battle-hardened veterans, they have built their squad around the cream of English academy talent, led by England skipper Chris Robshaw.


Leicester couldn't have timed their run to the final better - with the Tigers winning 11 on the bounce.

That impressive collection of results includes beating the defending champions Saracens twice, play-off semi-finalist Northampton twice and Harlequins themselves.

Having stormed out of the blocks, Harlequins' form towards the end of the season has been patchy.

They did win seven of their final 10 league games - including toppling Saracens and Northampton (twice) - however they lost to Gloucester and Leicester, while they drew with Newcastle. On top of that they also lost to Toulon in the Amlin Challenge Cup.

Battle of the breakdown

Two of the best back-rows in the Premiership will go head-to-head at Twickenham.

For the Tigers, the absence of Tom Croft and Jordan Crane will be a big loss however Thomas Waldrom, Julian Salvi and the big-hitting Steve Mafi have proved to be a hugely effective unit - with the likes of Craig Newby also making an impression.

But Quins will fancy their chances of dominating this phase of the game - with Aviva Premiership player of the year Robshaw, Nick Easter and Maurie Fa'asavalu supplemented by Will Skinner and Tom Guest as well as rising stars Luke Wallace and Chris York.

Centre of attention

While Leicester have traditionally been famed for their pack - or the "Beast" as it was once dubbed - it is in the centres that they could have the advantage.

Anthony Allen's form has seen him recalled to the England set-up, while Manu Tuilagi is a human wrecking ball. Billy Twelvetrees is also a menace with a superb all-round game.

There is no doubting the potential of the Harlequins midfield, however they lack the same cutting edge and experience.

Jordan Turner-Hall was on England's radar during the Six Nations and he has formed a useful partnership with George Lowe. Matt Hooper has also had his moments since making the step up from the Championship.

Kicking kings

In Toby Flood and the talented tyro George Ford, Leicester have two metronomic kickers - while Twelvetrees is a more than able deputy when required.

Flood tormented the Quins with 23 points in the 43-33 win at the Stoop, with the England fly-half slotting over 199 points in 14 league matches this season. He also bagged another 25 in the April 2010 victory.

Ford enhanced his ever-growing reputation in the semi-final win over Saracens - as well as match-winning performances against Bath and Northampton in the LV= Cup.

Twelvetrees has also weighed in with 105 points in 14 league appearances.

Evans, though, has proved to be even more deadly with 246 points in the league - including 30 in the two games against the Tigers.

However while Evans has dominated, Quins have lacked back-up from the kicking tee. Rory Clegg has scored 37 points in the Premiership - with a further 53 coming in other competitions - but he has lacked the same consistency.

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