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Leicester 15:00 London Irish

Final showdowns

Sky Sports rugby union writer Tony Curtis looks at where Saturday's Aviva Premiership final could be won and lost.

By Tony Curtis - Follow me on Twitter @SkysportsTC.   Last Updated: 22/05/13 2:01pm

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The curtain will finally fall on the Aviva Premiership season on Saturday when East Midlands rivals Leicester and Northampton clash at Twickenham.

The Tigers will be taking part in their ninth successive final, while the Saints will be appearing for the first time.

Leicester have won their last seven games against Northampton in all competitions - with the Saints last tasting victory on 5 September 2010, a 27-19 win.

And ahead of the mouth-watering encounter, we look at the key battles where the match could be won and lost.

Dan Cole v Soane Tonga'uiha

Dan Cole

Cole could be forgiven for having other things on his mind, with the Leicester tighthead set to team up with the British and Irish Lions after the Premiership final. However there will be no let up from the 26-year-old who is the consummate professional. He honed his skills under Lions and England coach Graham Rowntree and continues to go from strength to strength. Cole is tremendously strong in the set-piece, while his work at the breakdown is as good as any back row.

Soane Tonga'uiha

For Tonga'uiha, the showpiece event will be the 213th and final appearance of his Northampton career - with the 31-year-old moving to Racing Metro in the summer. The Tonga international has been a massive presence at Franklin's Gardens in every sense of the word - with cult figure dubbed nicknamed 'Tiny' for his 20st frame. That has made the loosehead such a threat at scrum time, while his power and deceptive turn of pace has tormented Premiership defences for the past seven seasons.

Tom Youngs v Dylan Hartley

Tom Youngs

Lion meets Lion in the most intriguing head-to-head at Twickenham. Youngs is the new kid on the block has enjoyed a sensational rise from England Under-21s centre to potential Lions Test hooker. A tenacious character, Youngs has gone on to make the No 2 jersey his own for both club and country since his shock England call-up in 2012. The Premiership player of the Year has started eight of the last nine Tests for England, with his work around the pitch more than making up for lapses at lineout time.

Dylan Hartley

Hartley has a point to prove - and the New Zealand-born No 2 won't be shy in getting it across at Twickenham as he looks to get one over the man who has ousted him from the England team. Like every good hooker, Hartley is an abrasive individual - although he has been guilty of crossing the line once or twice in the past. Hartley will look to make the most of his physicality and prowess at the set-piece to give him the edge.

Toby Flood v Stephen Myler

Toby Flood

Flood is a man on the mission after missing out on a place in the British and Irish Lions squad for the second time. The 27-year-old is highly talented, with the ability to vary his game from attacking the line to standing deep - however he has slipped behind Owen Farrell in the pecking order for England. In his 96 appearances for the Tigers he has weighed in with an impressive 1,163 points, while his influence on the team has seen him handed the captaincy.

Stephen Myler

The impact of Myler has had on the Saints has been somewhat understated - with the 28-year-old quietly going about his business. There is nothing flashy about the way he plays, but what Myler does bring is consistency and an impressive work ethic. He struggled last season as Northampton opted to rotate their No 10s however he has seen off the competition this time around. In 195 appearances, the cross-code convert has racked up 1,499 points - with only Paul Grayson having scored more for the Saints.

Tom Croft v Tom Wood

Tom Croft

Another member of the Leicester team that will be heading Down Under with the Lions, Croft has timed his return to perfection. Having been sidelined for nine months with a serious neck injury which had threatened his career, Croft has looked in imperious form in his 11 appearances back - with three tries in his last three games. With the versatility to play across the back row or in the second row, Croft has terrific pace and is a superb option in the lineout.

Tom Wood

While one Tom heads to Australia, another Tom will be captaining England in Argentina - although Wood can count himself unlucky not to be in the Lions squad. The 26-year-old has been a vital cog in Northampton's run to the final and impressed in the unnatural position of No 8 for England. Wood, who has made 22 appearances for the Saints this season, is a real menace at the breakdown and has an unyielding work-rate - with his efforts and commitment seeing him described as a warrior.

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