Richard Cockerill missing men for Leicester Tigers' big derby clash
Leicester Tigers are likely to go into Saturday's huge local derby with Northampton Saints missing six frontline back-row forwards.
That will put a massive strain on director of rugby Richard Cockerill's resources, with eight members of his squad also joining up with England this week for the opening autumn international against Fiji on November 10.
Ben Woods and Craig Newby have been forced to retire, Tom Croft is on the long-term sick-list, Julian Salvi is still missing with a broken hand, Thomas Waldrom is set to be named in England's match-day 23 and Jordan Crane left the Kingsholm pitch injured after just 19 minutes of Tigers' 27-21 Aviva Premiership defeat against Gloucester on Saturday.
With other back-row squad options Ben Pienaar and Tom Armes both having left the club in the summer, Leicester will be down to the bare bones when Saints arrive for the latest chapter of blood of thunder on Saturday.
Steve Mafi, Brett Deacon and Richard Thorpe look a possible back three if Crane fails to recover, while lock-forward Ed Slater could also slot in on the blindside having played there before.
Cockerill also has untried new signings Wessel Jooste, Michael Noone and Lucas Guillame, as well as Academy prospect George Oliver, at his is disposal.
Saints, meanwhile, could name all three of their starting back-row that played in the 16-6 defeat by Saracens. If Tom Wood and Phil Dowson are not wanted by England, they and Gerrit-Jan Van Velze should all be available.
The visitors, however, will also be without several forwards on England duty or missing through injury, and goal-kicking full-back Stephen Myler is also a doubt after he left the pitch on 27 minutes against Saracens.
Cockerill will find out whether he will get any of his eight-man Elite Player Squad back after discussions with England head coach Stuart Lancaster early this week – but he is not expecting much joy.
"Ben Youngs needs some game-time and I will also find out where Anthony Allen sits with England and the rest of the guys in terms of playing against Fiji," said Cockerill.
"We will have to manage that and I will have discussions with Stuart on Monday or Tuesday.
"England will pick their 23 and the others will be released.
"For our sake, I am hoping that all eight aren't in the 23. But realistically, Anthony Allen is probably the only question mark.
"You would expect all of the others to all be in the squad and Youngs is fine, despite not playing for us."