Tom Vickers’ London Welsh v Saints preview: 2013 can still be magic

CHANCE TO GO OUT WITH A BANG - Brian Mujati (left) and Soane Tonga'uiha
CHANCE TO GO OUT WITH A BANG - Brian Mujati (left) and Soane Tonga'uiha

This week’s announcement that George North will be winging his way to Franklin’s Gardens was the perfect pick-me-up for everyone of a Saints persuasion.

Following a series of days blighted by memories of that disturbing 36-8 defeat to Leicester Tigers, the Franklin’s Gardens faithful needed something to take the bitter taste away.

The acquisition of one of Europe’s brightest stars, and a probable British & Irish Lion to boot, has been like a opening a new tube of toothpaste.

But now it’s time to take that fresh feeling onto the pitch. Time for those currently at the club – North doesn’t join until the summer, remember – to show what they are made of.

Jamie Elliott, James Wilson, Ken Pisi, when available, and fit-again Paul Diggin will all want to show their worth ahead of North’s arrival.

There are points to prove. Critics to silence. Can Saints really claim Premiership glory this season? The Tigers mauling would suggest not.

But, with three games to go – two against the current basement teams and one at reigning champions Harlequins – Jim Mallinder’s men can issue the case for the defence.

North, Kahn Fotuali’i, Alex Corbisiero et al aren’t here to help yet. It’s up to the players who are to end that 13-year wait for major silverware.

And make no mistake, there is enough quality in the squad to at least go close. If players such as Ben Foden and George Pisi can produce their best form, Saints can retain hope.

Big-hitters such as Soane Tonga’uiha and Brian Mujati are desperate to go out with a bang, so no inch will be given up front.

Saints should expect to beat London Welsh and Sale, and then give Quins a real game – just as they did in last season’s Premiership semi-final – on the final day.

If they can do that, they have a real chance of finishing in the top four and ending up in the end-of-season lottery that is the play-offs.

There, anything can happen, as the pressure starts to tell.

First, though, it’s all about London Welsh, and not taking them lightly.

The Oxford-based outfit may have been docked five points recently, but they are not down and they are certainly not out.

Saints know that, and they know they need another big showing on the road to ensure they are not the latest team to be surprised by the strugglers.

Next season is not on the agenda. It’s about the here and now.

And, if they play their cards right, this set of Saints still have a real chance of doing something special.