Tom Vickers’ Northampton Saints versus Racing Metro preview

CRUCIAL - the win at Ospreys last Sunday, during which George North scored this try, means Saints will secure a home quarter-final if they beat Racing Metro at Franklin's Gardens tomorrow

CRUCIAL - the win at Ospreys last Sunday, during which George North scored this try, means Saints will secure a home quarter-final if they beat Racing Metro at Franklin's Gardens tomorrow

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Fixture: Northampton Saints v Racing Metro (Champions Cup Pool 5 - match six)

Date/kick-off time: Saturday, January 24, 3.15pm

Venue: Franklin’s Gardens

Weather forecast: 4C, clear

Referee: Nigel Owens

Saints: Wilson; K Pisi, G Pisi, Burrell, North; Myler, Dickson; Corbisiero, Hartley (c), Ma’afu; Dickinson, Day; Wood, Clark, Manoa.

Replacements: Haywood, A Waller, Denman, Dowson, Harrison, Fotuali’i, Stephenson, Elliott.

Racing Metro: Lapeyre; Imhoff, Chavancy, Roberts, Thomas; 10. Dambielle, Machenaud; Ben Arous, Szarzewski (c), Ducalcon; Charteris, van der Merwe; Lauret, Le Roux, Claassen.

Replacements: Lacombe, Brugnaut, Mujati, Kruger, Gerondeau, Phillips, Goosen, Chat.

Outs: Saints: Fisher (foot), Lawes (ankle), Foden (knee). Racing Metro: Jonny Sexton (head), Dulin (shoulder), Dumoulin (Achilles)

Most recent meeting: Saturday, October 18: Racing Metro 20 Saints 11 (Champions Cup)

Tom’s preview: The comeback is almost complete.

Four wins from four high-pressure matches has put Saints in position for a place in the Champions Cup quarter-finals.

And having not made the last eight of Europe’s top tier competition since reaching the Heineken Cup final in 2011, Jim Mallinder’s men crave another shot at the best the continent has to offer.

First though, they know they must exact revenge on Racing Metro.

Revenge for that disappointing 20-11 defeat on opening night in Colombes.

Back then, the drumbeat of the home support weighed heavy on Saints souls.

Heads of players and travelling fans were pounding with the incessant sound created by the fervent few at Stade Yves du Manoir.

Saints, who surrendered a losing bonus point late on, knew they could have done better, especially with their hosts having been down to 14 men twice in the match.

And they knew they would have a mammoth rebuilding job on their hands in the next five games.

But, rebuild they have, smashing Ospreys the following weekend before trouncing Treviso twice in December.

Last Sunday’s sturdy 20-9 success in south-west Wales put Saints one win away from achieving their goal of qualification.

And, not only that, they know that if they can beat Racing Metro at Franklin’s Gardens, they can set up a home knock-out tie at stadium:mk at the start of April.

The incentives are striking and Saints have the prowess to progress.

They are seen by some as the biggest threat to Toulon’s European dominance and will be desperate to show why this weekend.

Tom’s prediction: Saints 22 Racing Metro 15