O'Connor: Tigers must 'keep nerve' in derby


Leicester head coach Matt O’Connor believes high-octane Aviva Premiership derby clashes are about “keeping your nerve”.

Tigers head down the M1 to face fierce local rivals Northampton on Saturday, seeking an eighth successive victory in all competitions against the Saints.

Both clubs suffered defeats on the opening weekend — Leicester lost at home to Bath, while Northampton were crushed 55-24 by European champions Saracens — which raises traditionally high stakes even further.

“It’s a real challenge of your mentality as much as anything else, and to have it second game of the season is really positive,” O’Connor said.

“[Derbies] mean a little bit more to the players, and there are players from Leicester in that group who have had that rivalry their whole lives. It does add a little bit of spice, and it has spilled over on occasions.

“But it’s about keeping your nerve and making sure that regardless of what is going on you execute and do your job.”

Tigers are without England centre Manu Tuilagi, whose injury curse has struck again to leave him facing three months on the sidelines because of a knee problem, so Matt Smith partners Matt Toomua in midfield.

Saints, meanwhile, are boosted by a return for Wales wing George North, whose British and Irish Lions tour of New Zealand this summer ended early due to a hamstring injury, but flanker Tom Wood misses out with a shoulder problem.

Northampton’s former Leicester prop Kieran Brookes said: “We are ready to go for it. With both sides coming off a defeat, you can guarantee the match is going to be very tasty.

“It is a very special rivalry. There are a lot of local lads in the squads, so the history and rivalry between the clubs is already built into the players.”