Tom Vickers’ Gloucester v Northampton Saints preview

BOOST - Tom Wood returns to skipper Saints at Gloucester
BOOST - Tom Wood returns to skipper Saints at Gloucester
  • Saints go into match at Gloucester boasting a 12-point lead at the top of the Aviva Premiership
  • Jim Mallinder’s men have won 13 out of their 16 league games this season
  • Gloucester hoping to avoid another hammering like the one they received on opening day

Fixture: Gloucester v Northampton Saints (Aviva Premiership - round 17)

Date/kick-off time: Saturday, March 7, 3.15pm

Venue: Kingsholm

Weather forecast: 14C, clear

Referee: Greg Garner

Gloucester: McColl; Sharples, Meakes, Twelvetrees (c), May; Hook, Laidlaw; Murphy, Hibbard, Afoa; Savage, Palmer; Kalamafoni, Kvesic, Evans.

Replacements: Dawidiuk, Thomas, Puafisi, Stooke, Moriarty, Robson, Burns, Purdy.

Saints: Wilson; K Pisi, G Pisi, Stephenson, Elliott; Myler, Fotuali’i; Corbisiero, Haywood, Ma’afu; Lawes, Day; Wood (c), Clark, Manoa.

Replacements: Williams, A Waller, Denman, Dickinson, Dowson, Dickson, Olver, Tuala.

Outs: Gloucester: Trinder (knee), Cook (shoulder), Morgan (leg). Saints: Foden (knee), Hartley, Burrell, North (all international duty).

Most recent meeting: Friday, September 6: Saints 53 Gloucester 6 (Aviva Premiership)

Tom’s preview: This weekend, Aviva Premiership clubs come face to face with the side they kicked off their campaign against.

It is a chance to assess the journey they have been on since September, to take stock of how far they have come since the embryonic stage of the season.

And for Saints, there can be plenty of positive reflection as they prepare for a clash with Gloucester at Kingsholm on Saturday.

In the six months since the 53-6 evisceration of the Cherry and Whites at Franklin’s Gardens, Jim Mallinder’s men have shown that performance was not a flash in the pan.

The champions, whose chances of retaining their title were doubted by some in the traditional pre-season predictions, have shown they are here to stay.

A few blips aside, they have been relentless in picking up results.

Should they beat Gloucester this weekend, it would be 13 wins from 17 league games, which would be by far the best record in the division.

In an unpredictable league, Saints - and winless London Welsh - have achieved some much-needed consistency.

That has seen the men from Northampton open up a 12-point lead at the top with just six games of the regular season to go.

And their biggest enemy is now themselves as they bid to stop complacency creeping in during the closing stages.

Every interview this week has included references to that, with players and coaches adamant they won’t trip on their lead.

They know that a win this weekend will take them another step towards achieving the aim of a home play-off semi-final, making life just a little tougher for the chasing pack.

And it can certainly be said that had you offered them this position when Gloucester came calling on the opening night, they would have bitten your hand off for it.

Tom’s prediction: Gloucester 18 Saints 25