It is never difficult to pump yourself up for a local derby but Northampton Saints back row Rhys Oakley has warned his team not to lose their heads in their Aviva Premiership clash with Leicester Tigers on Saturday.
Following an electric start to the season which saw Saints win all five of their opening games their form stuttered and they head to Welford Road having lost the two most recent ties against London Irish and Saracens.
The visiting side will be without captain Dylan Hartley and lock Courtney Lawes through injury while flanker Tom Wood will remain with England – although they are boosted by the return of Calum Clark and Phil Dowson’s release from the international squad.
And Oakley backed the squad to show its worth by bolstering the depleted Saints pack before taking home the Midlands bragging rights away from home for the first time since February 2007 in front of the ESPN cameras.
“The lads are bang up for the derby,” he said. “We never want to lose it and take a lot of pride in the results, we know how much it means to the fans in the area.
“We need to be very disciplined, it is one of those ‘bodies in the oven, heads in the fridge’ situations because we know we can’t afford to give away easy three points.
“They are pretty similar to us in the way they play so we are expecting a lot of work up front but the lads are relishing it because we believe we have the best pack in the league.”
Leicester also come into the game needing to bounce back from defeat after they were downed 27-21 by Gloucester Rugby last weekend while they are also missing players due to the autumn internationals – although they have not lost consecutive games since October last year.
Ben Youngs and Anthony Allen have been allowed to return to the club but the league’s fifth-placed side have six players missing due to England duty and back Matt Smith insists his team are determined not to let it show.
“The key word is consistency for us, we have to be at our very best on a regular basis regardless of our personnel, we will be missing players but the levels must remain the same,” he said.
“Northampton is always a tough fixture and in a local derby we always are desperate to do well.
“We might think that this is a good time to play with them with internationals and injuries but at the same time I’m sure they are thinking the same thing.
“After the Gloucester game a lot of harsh words were said, we have all worked very hard this week to correct our mistakes.”
Referee: Greg Garner (39th Premiership game)
Assistant Referees: Peter Huckle, Gareth Copsey. TMO: Trevor Fisher
(Welford Road, 2.15pm) Live on ESPN HD