Bath coach says Saints set-piece is one of the best

FORCE TO BE RECKONED WITH - the Saints pack
FORCE TO BE RECKONED WITH - the Saints pack

Bath forwards coach Neil Hatley believes Saints are one of the top three set-piece sides in Europe.

And he admits his team will have to win the battle up front if they are to stand any chance of beating Jim Mallinder’s men at The Rec on tonight (Friday, ko 7.45pm).

Bath and Saints go head-to-head knowing a win would put them top of the Aviva Premiership ahead of the Saturday and Sunday fixtures.

Both outfits currently boast 100 per cent records after two wins in as many games and both have impressed up front.

Saints’ forwards have scored four of their team’s seven tries so far and Hatley is wary of the threat this week’s opposition pose in the pack.

“Friday night is going to be a massive game,” Hatley, who made a summer switch to The Rec from London Irish, told the Bath Chronicle.

“Northampton are an outstanding team and they’ll be looking to continue their momentum, just like we are.

“Over the past couple of seasons I think they’ve probably been among the best three sides in Europe at the set-piece, so we know that’s an area they will try to dominate.

“They are so strong in the pack and have a lot of international players in that department, so we’ve got to make sure we compete against them.

“It’s another home game and what we need to do is make sure teams do not want to come down to The Rec to play us.

“Sitting at the top of the league is a great thing whenever it is in the season, so it’s certainly an incentive heading into the game.

“Northampton are in exactly the same boat, though, so the carrot is just the same for both of us.”

Both sides have been hit by injury ahead of the clash, with Bath losing England centre Matt Banahan and Saints without Brian Mujati and George Pisi.

But Hatley is confident his men can cope without key man Banahan and he recognises Saints’ desire for early points ahead of the start of the autumn internationals, when they will lose players to England.

“Injuries are part and parcel of the game, so if Matt is not available for Friday it gives someone else a chance to come in and step up,”said Hatley.

“We’ve got Ben Williams and Jack Cuthbert, who has been doing really well recently. He was strong in pre-season and has had a role to play in both games so far.

“Northampton know they will lose a few players during the international matches, so will want to get as many points on the board before that as possible.

“We saw that by just how determined they were to get the bonus-point win over Exeter on Sunday.”