Alex Mitchell has already been on the winning side of three East Midlands Derbies at Mattioli Woods Welford Road so far in his career – and the Northampton Saints scrum-half is hoping to make that four on Saturday.
Mitchell retuned to Saints colours last weekend against Exeter Chiefs, scoring a try and helping the men in Black, Green, and Gold to a 34-19 victory which saw Northampton jump into the top four of the Gallagher Premiership after three wins on the bounce.
The 26-year-old was not involved in Saints’ dramatic 19-18 win away at Leicester last year while he was on an international camp with England, but with his focus this time around very much back on Club rugby, Mitchell cannot wait for Saturday afternoon.
“I love the Derby matches,” he said. “They’re the biggest games for us in the year, apart from the play-offs, and they are the first games you look at when the fixtures come out.
“I’m massively excited and whether it’s here or at Welford Road, normally it’s close to a sell-out, and the atmosphere through the week and in the game is massive.”
Having spent several months away at the Rugby World Cup, it may have taken Mitchell some time to bed himself back into life at Club level.
But the scrum-half insists it took him almost no time at all to get back to grips with Saints’ style of play, and he is hoping that Northampton can maintain the performance levels of recent weeks throughout the rest of the season.
He said: “Coming back in, I thought I’d have to learn all the moves again, but I’ve been here for a fair few years now so it comes back pretty quickly.
“Everyone helps you – the players and the coaches – so it’s not been too tough. There are obviously a few things you need to get used to but as soon as you do a few training sessions you’re pretty much back to normal.
“With us, we know how good we are in attack. There’s always things to work on, but if we really get the balance of our game right with our kicking, running, and playing in the right areas, we’re going to be really difficult to play against."Alex Mitchell
“We can kick and play in the right areas, or we can run the ball and score out wide, so if we get the balance right, we can be very dangerous.
“Hopefully we can put in some more performances like the one against Exeter.”
Mitchell started five of England’s seven Rugby World Cup games in France, and he will be lining up against some of his international teammates (who will be wearing Leicester jerseys) this weekend.
And the scrum-half reflects on the whole experience with nothing but fondness.
“I obviously know the England boys [at Leicester] well,” he added. “They’re good guys and really good players.
“You’ve got to appreciate that, and obviously training with them in the past two months, there’s a few things I know they’re strong at, so I can try to look after them in that sense. I’m excited to play against them.
“The entire World Cup experience was really fun. Obviously coming into the squad late was different, but the whole experience was amazing – especially playing as much as I did alongside the different places we went to; Le Touquet, Nice, Marseille and Paris.
“Being involved in those games in those stadiums was amazing, so for me the whole experience was brilliant and it was just a shame we didn’t quite get the job done in the semi-final.”