Few people cross the East Midlands divide - and for good reason! - but of those to make the switch between Northampton and Leicester, few can claim to have had such success as Dusty Hare.
During his playing days, Hare spent 13 years at Leicester, racking up England caps, Lions appearances and more than half of his world record 7,337 first class points.
Since 2010, however, Hare has been a Saint, working as the club’s Academy manager, overseeing the progression of a host of players from Academy to first team action, as well as scouting talent from around the globe. Ahead of Saturday’s much anticipated match, he explains that as a player in the 70s and 80s, he was always aware of how important the East Midlands derby was.
“I was brought up to know that it was a derby game and it was important for Leicester to beat their neighbours!” he told the Saints podcast. “It was always a big game.
“There wasn’t a bigger match than the Leicester-Northampton game. Although Leicester-Coventry was a big one, Leicester-Northampton was THE game.”
The full back’s first experience of the East Midlands derby came in 1976 as part of Leicester’s second team, the Extras, in their fixture against the Wanderers. Although this match was between the 2nd XVs from each club, Hare fondly recalls the rivalry between the two sides during his cameo appearance
“I had a “Roy of the Rovers” day for Leicester and we won 24-21. I could tell the feeling between our players and theirs for winning and losing. It was a good day for us and a bad day for them. That’s how I got to know how big the rivalry was and that was only a second team game!”
In his role as Saints Academy manager, Hare is now responsible for the development of young players into first team regulars of the future. With many Academy players now coming from much further afield, the influence he can have in conveying that ‘feeling’ and the significance of the East Midlands Derby is more important than ever.
“The Academy is such a wide berth of players,” he explained. “We have players come from as far as Suffolk, but they know jolly well how important it is to beat Leicester! They will start with that in the Academy, and hopefully that will be bred into them as they go into the older age grades.”
Now in his sixth year at Franklin’s Gardens, Hare’s colours are firmly nailed to the Northampton mast - not that he never envisaged being a Saints supporter.
“Of course I didn’t! When you play for Leicester, you are brought up the Leicester way; it is a way. It is a mentally tough environment at Leicester.
“But I want Northampton to win this week, of course. I feel that my ties have finished at Leicester. I’ve come to Northampton and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the team situation that I’m in here at the club.
“I think it’s great that with the game of rugby, people will mix, drinking before and after the game, win or lose. Hopefully in Northampton’s case it will be a celebration!”
You can hear the full interview with Hare, as well as big game previews from Dorian West, Stephen Myler and Harry Mallinder, in this week's podcast. Listen at the link above, or CLICK HERE to download or subscribe for FREE! You can also sync through Podcasts on iTunes - just search Northampton Saints.