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Preview | Tigers travel south for another clash of Leicester v London

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Leicester Tigers will return to action in Allianz Premiership Women’s Rugby this weekend, Saturday, May 11, as they head back down to London to battle Harlequins Women.

The reverse fixture, at Mattioli Woods Welford Road, was Tigers’ first of 2024 and was an exciting, close-run affair.

A score of 24 – 33 saw that day’s visitors score a last minute try to allow for breathing room but, with just two points in it going into the final period, Tigers were left to rue missed chances against their experienced opponents.

Their first score of the second half was a rolling maul dotted down by Elis Martin and the return of Tigers’ Scotland internationals will be critical to success: as well as a try in the earlier fixture, Martin boasts a tenaciousness at the breakdown (sitting second in the side for turnovers won, with four); Eva Donaldson brings a constant lineout threat, with the second highest lineout steals of all players Allianz PWR at a rate of 0.7 per 80 minutes; out wide, Francesca McGhie is both Leicester’s joint top scorer in the league and ranks ninth in the league for defenders beaten (38).

The match will also see the debut of Olympian and Team GB 7s star Celia Quansah. Having signed for the club over the summer, the former national level heptathlete will line up on the wing and will be keen to make an impact on her first appearance for the club, having eased back into rugby with recent 7s tours in Los Angeles and Hong Kong.

In terms of how the game will unfold, Saturday’s hosts possess a key identity: Harlequins are a side that like to attack.

The last time the two sides met, ‘Quins enjoyed triple the number of offloads that Tigers did, with 18 to Leicester’s six. Across the season thus far, the Londoners are second overall for average offloads per game (10.5) and clearly look to utilise their speed out wide, coming second in number of passes per game (175).

They equally love to run with the ball, as they are second overall in carries per game (138.3) and metres carried (874.7). Interestingly, despite their penchant for spreading the ball wide, Tigers have made more effective use of their backs throughout the season, having scored 19 tries through their backs, one up on Quins’ 18.

However, the key advantage for Saturday’s hosts has been their depth, with eleven tries coming from replacements, the joint highest in the league.

The Tigers back row must be prepared to be at their tenacious best. Tigers top tacklers, Becky Noon (17.8 tackles) and Morgan Richardson (16 tackles), place fourth and tenth for successful tackles per 80 minutes across the whole league and both must be prepared to work hard at the Twickenham Stoop.

Leicester Tigers as a whole have the highest tackle dominance rate of any side in this season’s Allianz Premiership Women’s Rugby (8%) and have also made the second most turnover-winning tackles per game of any team this term (3.7).

However, the side will be missing the tackle dominance provided by Keia Mae Sagapolu Sanele (18 dominant tackles), Tahlia Brody (13 dominant tackles) and Catha Jacobs (13 dominant tackles).

In fact, both sides will be missing critical players. News broke earlier this week that Leicester are set to miss Meg Jones, who is joining up with Team GB 7s ahead of the 2024 Paris Olympics.

Jones offers a threat wherever she is on the park and is fifth for try involvements in this year’s Allianz PWR with 12 combined tries and assists.

She will be joined in camp by Harlequins’ Ellie Kildunne, who scored in the reverse fixture and has been key for the quarters. Kildunne has made over 300 more carry metres than any other player in this season’s Allianz Premiership Women’s Rugby (1565) and has beaten more defenders than any other player in the league this term (76).

Tomorrow’s return to Allianz Premiership Women’s Rugby action will see the side look to finish a first-ever Premiership season on a high and it looks as if the trip to Twickenham will certainly bring the excitement.

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