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Croft poised for Tigers comeback

England flanker Tom Croft returns for Leicester in Saturday night's clash with Aviva Premiership title rivals Saracens at Vicarage Road.

Croft's comeback since recovering from the serious neck injury sustained last April has been approached on a match-by-match basis and he sat out last Saturday's 25-21 defeat at Harlequins.

But the 27-year-old, who last played for England a year ago, has been selected in the back row against Saracens in his fourth outing of the season. Former Ireland full-back Geordan Murphy also returns for Leicester with the captain making his 297th starting appearance for the club.

Leicester, Quins and Saracens are locked in a three-way struggle to finish top of the Premiership and Tigers director of rugby Richard Cockerill knows the stakes are high.

"We weren't far away at Quins last week, we defended very well and scored two good tries," Cockerill said. "Tomorrow is another important game against another good side who are just above us in the table."

Saracens, lifted by their 31-11 bonus-point victory over Exeter last Saturday, recall hooker Schalk Brits and full-back Chris Wyles to their starting XV.

The Chiefs are hoping to halt their slide down the Premiership when they host relegation-threatened London Welsh at Sandy Park. The loss to Saracens at Allianz Park - their fourth in five games - has ended their faint hopes of finishing in the top four and now they must focus on trying to qualify again for the Heineken Cup.

"London Welsh are desperate for points, but so are we," head coach Rob Baxter said. "We want to do well in the Premiership, we want to do well at home and we want to win games of rugby, so it's an important game for us. I've said quite a few times that seasons should not hang on one game and right now we are having a solid season."

A revamped Exeter pack will feature prop Carl Rimmer and hooker Jack Yeandle in the front row, with captain Tom Hayes restored to the second row and Ben White to the back row. Welsh make three changes after being edged 26-25 at the Kassam Stadium with centre Seb Jewell, scrum-half Tyson Keats and prop Greg Bateman starting.

Hooker Rob Webber will lead Bath when they travel to Franklin's Gardens with the intention of leapfrogging opponents Northampton. Saints have picked Ben Foden at full-back despite his struggle with an ankle problem. In Sunday's only Premiership fixture, relegation-threatened London Irish host Wasps.


From Belfast Telegraph