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Leicester Tigers flanker Steve Mafi back in the frame for crunch Northampton showdown

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Flanker Steve Mafi could return to the Leicester Tigers squad as they prepare for Saturday's derby with Northampton Saints at Franklin's Gardens.

The Tongan international has recovered from a torn hamstring he sustained against Toulouse in January, and Tigers director of rugby Richard Cockerill said he was "good to go".

Mafi's return to fitness means that Leicester make the trip with just Miles Benjamin (neck) and Louis Deacon (shoulder) on the long-term injury list.

With Northampton missing just winger Paul Diggin (knee) and Jon Clarke (shoulder) from their squad, a sold-out Franklin's Gardens will be able to enjoy a battle between two teams at virtual full strength.

Tigers will be seeking a seventh consecutive win against their bitter rivals and, with Saints hoping to hang on to a play-off place and Leicester keen to maintain their spot in the top two, there will be plenty on the line – as usual.

"These fixtures have always been feisty and competitive and, with them four points behind us, a win for either side will be very beneficial," said Cockerill.

"We have had some good success against them in recent times but, before then, it was very difficult to win there.

"It's all to play for and we know that a win would certainly cement us in that top two with three games to go.

"At the moment, we are pretty good on the injuries front and everyone came through the weekend okay.

"Steve Mafi is also good to go and that is good news.

"This is a very important couple of weeks for us and we don't have the luxury of resting players for next week's trip to Toulon."

Tigers have had the Indian sign over Saints during the last two years, but Jim Mallinder's side have hit form at just the right time this season after being written off by all and sundry.

Their four consecutive league wins have propelled them to fourth place and, with a reasonably comfortable run-in, they could challenge the top two spots.

"On their day, they are as good as any side in the league," said Cockerill.

"But we are in good form, too. We had a big win against Sale and then, having had the disruption of lots of internationals being away, we battled to a big win at Exeter last week."

Former Tigers flanker Paul Gustard will join the England coaching set-up for the summer tour to Argentina.

Now at Saracens, Gustard joins Exeter's Rob Baxter as part of a duo that will replace Andy Farrell and Graham Rowntree, who are away with the British & Irish Lions.

Leicester Tigers flanker Steve Mafi back in the frame for crunch Northampton showdown


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