Northampton Saints have some big decisions to make, according to coach Alex King, after slipping to an LV= Cup defeat at Leicester Tigers.
Howard Packman hit back with a try shortly after the hour mark but a late Owen Williams penalty ensured the Saints couldn’t claim even a losing bonus point.
Both Cardiff Blues and Sale Sharks could now move ahead of them in Pool 2 on Sunday and as Northampton prepare to host Wasps next weekend, knowing they need to top the group to reach the last four, King admits they may call on some more experienced cavalry.
“We have got some big decisions to make on Monday and Tuesday this week,” he said.
“There are quite a few factors. You are never sure who is going to be released by England and things like that. It’s a question of how much game time people have had.
“It is the unique nature of the LV= Cup – you are never really sure who you want to win. If we get through it will be a fantastic reward for our hard work but we will wait and see what happens.
“I thought we deserved a bonus point but you learn from it. It’s disappointing that we didn’t get any points in that five-minute period before half-time.
“We had a lot of young guys coming off the bench, coming through the academy, and they were absolutely brilliant. They got a test of what it’s like to play at the top level in front of 24,000 Leicester Tigers fans.
“We see them every day in training. They key is that they get this level of game time and experience because you have to be able to play to get better.”
For Leicester, a third win in as many games puts them on the brink of an LV= Cup semi-final – knowing they will head into the final round of games with their fate in their own hands.
And of all the youngsters on show at Welford Road, coach Geordan Murphy singled out centre Jack Roberts, who joined from Rotherham last October, for special praise.
“He's a nuggety little centre who reminds me of Tom Youngs,” said Murphy. “He has a great turn of pace and good skills.
“He played a fantastic game. He signed just before the Barbarians game and broke his cheekbone in that game so he's been out for a while.
“He played his first game for the A team against Northampton a few weeks ago and had a good game.
“He's exciting and one of those players who gets the crowd excited when he gets the ball. Hopefully he can kick on through to the first team. He's a genuine option.”
Leicester Tigers: Bell, Morris, Catchpole (Smith 73), Roberts (Hepetema 62), Thompstone, Williams, Harrison (Mele 54), Rizzo (Brugnara 54), Thacker (Briggs 54), Balmain (Mulipola 54), Peterson, De Chaves (Whetton 51), Gibson (Beckett 66), Barbieri, Pearce
Northampton Saints: Collins, Elliott, Waldouck, Stephenson (Hutchinson 73), Packman, Hooley (Olver 53), Hodgson (Day 53), Waller (Hobbs-Awoyemi 66), Williams (Marshall 73), Denman (Parkins 73), Ryder (Onojaife 62), Woolford, Dowson, Harrison (Nutley 63), Dolan
Tries: De Chaves, Pearce
Conversions: Williams 2
Referee: Nigel Owens
Tickets for this year's LV= Cup Final on 22 March at Franklin's Gardens are now on sale. Click here to snap one up from just £20 for adults, £10 for juniors to see who will win the first silverware of the season.