There have been some enormous East Midlands derbies in recent years but with a spot in Aviva Premiership Rugby’s top four on the line – Stephen Myler admits this weekend could be the biggest of the lot.
There are three rounds to go in the regular season and Saints currently sit fifth, one position and four points behind their local rivals Leicester Tigers.
Saints’ form has been patchy of late – they have only won one of their last four in all competitions – and they have been hit hard by injuries.
First-team stars like Dylan Hartley, Tom Wood and George North have all been absent in recent weeks – including their European defeat to Saracens last time out.
But Myler is adamant that his side will be up for the task at Franklin’s Gardens on Saturday – a game Saints simply must win to retain any realistic hopes of a top-four finish.
“This weekend is going to be a massive occasion, it’s got to be up there as one of the biggest derbies,” said the 31-year-old.
“There have been some big ones in recent seasons and this year, coming so late in the season, and with both teams fighting for the top four, makes it a huge one.
“This is a must-win, not just because it’s a local derby but also because of what is on offer with both sides fighting for the top four.
“We need to win to get back into the mix, if we don’t it will be difficult.
“But we have got to embrace it for what it is.
“We have addressed things from recent weeks, we have come up against two good teams.
“In those games we have shown glimpses – we know we are more than capable of beating these teams.
“But we have got to perform consistently, we know if we get the things in our control right we can fix this.”
The Saints’ only home defeat since November came when Wasps were the visitors in round 10 and the Tigers have lost on their last two visits to Franklin's Gardens.
Myler added: “We always enjoy playing here, we need no encouragement but hopefully our performance this weekend gives them something to shout about.”
And with the likes of Wood and Hartley still on the sidelines, the younger members of the squad have had to step up.
None more so than Teimana Harrison who was tipped for an England call-up by Jim Mallinder after his performance against Sarries last time out.
“It’s been a bit frustrating recently, we have had injuries but you can’t plan for them, you have to deal with and the lads that have come in have been superb,” added Myler.
“Teimana has not had a lot of game time, he has been chomping at the bit for a couple of years now and has earned his spot.
“He’s a great example of how the youngsters have taken their chances – Ben Nutley made his first start of the season against Saracens and did really well – it was a good test of character.
"That they have done this is not a shock to anyone here.”
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