Guscott previews Northampton v Leicester and Gloucester v Bath

By Jeremy GuscottRugby union analyst, BBC Sport
Sila Puafisi is sent off for Gloucester
Gloucester had two players sent off in their match against Bath at Kingsholm last season

Local derbies are always huge days for the fans.

A lot of the supporters from both sides will be friends or family, or will belong to the same business or organisation, and it is all about bragging rights. You can imagine the banter that goes backwards and forwards.

When you are the away side in a local derby, you know you are in the enemy camp - because, in the sporting sense, you are the enemy. There is respect, of course, but if you are not used to it, it can be fairly uncomfortable.

Northampton Saints v Leicester Tigers

Venue: Franklin's Gardens Date: Saturday, 20 December Kick-off: 15:15 GMT Coverage: Live commentary on BBC Radio Northampton and BBC Radio Leicester. Derby day special live text commentary online from 14:30 GMT.

You look at the Northampton pack and it is humongous. And the quality that it has is difficult to match for any side - that is why they are the best team in the Premiership and are the current champions.

What director of rugby Jim Mallinder can call upon is huge. Where Leicester have really made their name in the past is with an uncompromising, forceful, powerful pack - but when you think of Samu Manoa, Tom Wood, Courtney Lawes and Dylan Hartley, plus a backline that includes Luther Burrell, Stephen Myler, the Pisi brothers, George North and Ben Foden, you realise Northampton have a really a premium, platinum setup.

Dylan Hartley and George North
Northampton and Leicester have not met since their play-off semi-final at Franklin's Gardens in May, which Saints won before going on to beat Saracens at Twickenham

But Leicester are still a great club with a great history, great track record and great tradition - they have their way of preparing a squad and a DNA that runs throughout. That is the Tigers way and all players buy into it.

They have had a few players come back, like Tom Youngs, Geoff Parling and Dan Cole, and the quality of Tigers is legendary. Despite their soft start to the season, nobody thought they would not get into the top six and would not realistically challenge for the play-offs.

For example, when you have the experience of someone like Brad Thorn, a World Cup winner who has played for the best side in the world and won everything in the game, it shows the kind of recruitment they are capable of.

Brad Thorn
Brad Thorn, capped 59 times by the All Blacks, joined Leicester Tigers in August

The Leicester side, while it does not have the X-factor players that Saints have, is one that is well-drilled and one that gets the best out of what they have.

I think Tigers will actually quite like the tag of underdogs coming into the game. And, given that Saints are Premiership champions and possess the kind of quality they do, it would be unrealistic to think of Leicester as anything other than underdogs.

But the advantage is with Northampton. They are going well and just have that extra sprinkle of stardust at the moment, so I expect them to win.

Gloucester v Bath

Venue: Kingsholm Date: Saturday, 20 December Kick-off: 17:30 GMT Coverage: Live commentary on BBC Radio Gloucestershire and BBC Radio Bristol. Derby day special live text commentary online from 14:30 GMT.

Growing up in Bath and going on to play for my hometown club, I used to love the games against Gloucester.

Whichever ground I used to run out at away from home, I would always come out of the tunnel and head straight for the opposite side of the stadium. At Kingsholm that happens to be 'The Shed' - and you were always greeted by some not particularly pleasant banter from the locals, although nothing unexpected.

Jeremy Guscott
"Bath is my home town and I knew how important it was, for us as a city, to beat Gloucester"

I have always relished these local derbies and to me they were like internationals. The atmosphere was buzzing and you could not help but be high from it. I fed off the rivalry.

I look at the Bath side at the moment and they have a powerful set of forwards and a skilful, speedy, try-scoring backline, and when you have that at your disposal you have to think you are going to win games.

For everyone looking in from the outside, Bath are second in the table and Gloucester are eighth, so Bath are expected to win. And, in their position, if they do not there has to be a darn good reason why.

Sam Burgess
Sam Burgess started his first match for Bath against Montpellier at The Rec last Friday

I expected Sam Burgess to start on the bench and if he comes on Bath must be doing well because, first and foremost, they have to pick their best team and as we speak now he would not be first choice.

He is learning and that is going to be a process. We do not know how long that is going to take and neither does he.

He has to find his timing and to understand the breakdown. Defence should not be too difficult, because I believe if someone runs to your right, to your left or straight at you then you just adjust accordingly.

But with the skill set he possesses I would suggest he will do very well - we just have to wait.

David Humphreys
David Humphreys took over at Gloucester following Nigel Davies' departure at the end of last season

Gloucester are a dangerous side, especially when you look at their backline and they have players like Greig Laidlaw, James Hook, Billy Twelvetrees and Charlie Sharples.

The lift for them will be playing at home against Bath. There will be so much adrenaline flowing through that team and it is amazing what that can do to you. The fear of losing at home against one of your biggest rivals does not bear thinking about.

But it is also about getting past those emotions so you are able to play at your best and succeed.

You have to back Bath to win this game. Their form away from home may not have been spectacular, but I would still expect them to win.

Jeremy Guscott was speaking to BBC Sport's Brendon Mitchell.

Top Stories