Tom Vickers’ Northampton Saints v Newcastle Falcons preview

HAPPY TO GIVE YOUTH A CHANCE - Saints director of rugby Jim Mallinder
HAPPY TO GIVE YOUTH A CHANCE - Saints director of rugby Jim Mallinder

Fixture: Northampton Saints v Newcastle Falcons (LV= Cup match one)

Date/kick-off time: Saturday, November 1 (4pm)

Venue: Franklin’s Gardens, Northampton

Weather forecast: 16C, partly cloudy

Saints: Collins; Elliott, Stephenson, Waldouck, Packman; Hooley, Hodgson; E Waller, Haywood, Denman; Craig, C Day; Dowson (c), Harrison, Fisher.

Replacements: McMillan, Hobbs-Awoyemi, Mercey, Woolford, Nutley, Fotuali’i, Mallinder, Skelcey.

Newcastle Falcons: Smith; Catterick, Barnes, Helleur, Alex Tuilagi; Clegg, Blair; Vickers, Hawkins, Wilson; Green, MacLeod; Temm, Saull (c), Kolo’ofai.

Replacements: Lawson, Rogers, Tomaszczyk, Robinson, Barrow, Davies, Socino, Hammersley.

Outs: Saints: Corbisiero (shoulder), Dickinson (neck), G Dickson (hip), G Pisi (hamstring), Burrell (hand), A Waller, Hartley, Lawes, Clark, Wood, L Dickson, Myler, Foden (all international duty).

Newcastle: Welch (knee)

Most recent meeting: Sunday, September 21: Newcastle Falcons 10 Saints 35

Tom’s preview: There was a warmth in the way Jim Mallinder spoke about the return of the LV= Cup to the Saints agenda this week.

Some may ignore it, feeling it is just a second team tournament because it falls during the international window.

But that is not the way Mallinder and Saints see it.

Instead, they welcome it as an opportunity to blood youngsters and to add another trophy to an ever-growing cabinet.

They savour the chance to throw some new men into the mix.

And they can do so safe in the knowledge that the system in place at Franklin’s Gardens will ensure those players thrive.

An identity has been built at the club, with Wanderers and Academy sides playing in the manner of the first team.

That ensures players they do not choke when asked to step up to the top table.

In fact, they revel in the responsibility.

And they are treated with the respect afforded to the international stars who have headed off to represent their countries.

Rather than seeing Saturday’s LV= Cup game as one to avoid, the Saints supporters get behind it.

There will barely be a spare seat in the house this weekend.

There is an excitement about seeing so many players who are highly rated, but starved of game time due to the high standard currently swamping the senior squad.

Youngsters such as Tom Stephenson, Tom Collins and Ben Nutley would appear to have big futures.

And there are so many more you can reel off who have not even had a sniff of first-team action this season, yet who would grace many Premiership first 15s.

That is a sign of the strength of the Saints squad.

A group has been built that has been rotated seamlessly.

And Saints will hope that trend continues this weekend and beyond, especially with a home final up for grabs in this competition.

The importance of that was shown last season, as Exeter Chiefs claimed the spoils at their Sandy Park ground.

Saints, having won their previous 13 games, many of which took place without their Six Nations stars, were slayed by a fired-up Chiefs team.

It was a special occasion for the west country side.

One to savour.

And Saints would dearly love to sample a similar experience at Franklin’s Gardens next March.

But, as Mallinder put it - there are plenty of hoops to be jumped through before then.

And this up-and-coming Saints bunch will have some serious fun trying to navigate them.

Tom’s prediction: Saints 30 Newcastle 18