Tom Vickers’ Sale Sharks v Northampton Saints preview

Saints were beaten 20-7 by Sale at the AJ Bell Stadium in January (pictures: Sharon Lucey)
Saints were beaten 20-7 by Sale at the AJ Bell Stadium in January (pictures: Sharon Lucey)

Fixture: Sale Sharks v Northampton Saints (Aviva Premiership round three)

Date/kick-off time: Sunday, November 1, 2.30pm

Danny Cipriani was a thorn in Saints' side in the January defeat at the AJ Bell Stadium

Danny Cipriani was a thorn in Saints' side in the January defeat at the AJ Bell Stadium

Venue: AJ Bell Stadium

Weather forecast: 13C, light cloud

Referee: Andrew Small

Sale: Haley; Arscott, Leota, Tuitupou, Addison; Cipriani, Cusiter; Harrison, Taylor, Cobilas; Evans, Mills; Braid (c), Ioane, Beaumont.

The AJ Bell Stadium has not been a happy hunting ground in the league for Saints

The AJ Bell Stadium has not been a happy hunting ground in the league for Saints

Replacements: Briggs, Flynn, Mujati, Ostrikov, Lund, Stringer, Macleod, James.

Saints: Foden; K Pisi, G Pisi, Burrell, Elliott; Myler, Fotuali’i; A Waller, Haywood, Brookes; Lawes, Paterson; Gibson, Wood (c), Dickinson.

Replacements: Hartley, E Waller, Hill, Day, Fisher, Dickson, Hanrahan, Tuala.

Outs: Saints: James Wilson (arm), Victor Matfield (international duty), George North (rested)

Most recent meeting: Saturday, January 10: Sale 20 Saints 7 (Aviva Premiership)

Tom’s preview: There are not many teams who have played Saints off the park in the Aviva Premiership in recent seasons.

Away from home, Jim Mallinder’s men have developed a siege mentality, a steely determination that has brought them a proud record.

If they lose, they don’t often lose convincingly, typically pushing teams to be at their best for the full 80 minutes if they want to earn a result.

But that has not been the case at the AJ Bell Stadium in the past two Premiership visits.

Last season and in the one that preceded it, Saints produced performances that lacked cohesion.

The first time round, in March, 2014, they could point to reintegrating their Six Nations stars as a reason why they looked so lacklustre in a 19-6 loss.

But last January, they did not have that excuse, suffering a 20-7 defeat in a game that Sale dominated.

The Sharks have managed to drown Saints at the breakdown in recent league meetings in their own choppy seas.

Flankers Dan Braid and David Seymour have done to Saints what the comically named combination of Michael Hooper and David Pocock - known together as ‘Pooper’ - did to England when Australia won at Twickenham in that gut-wrenching World Cup meeting.

Seymour, who will not play this weekend, and Braid have stifled Saints, starving them of possession.

And that has given the likes of Danny Cipriani, who was man of the match in the January meeting between the sides, and Will Addison the chance to shine in the backline.

As ever, Saints will know they must win the forward battle this weekend.

But that will easier said than done against a Sale side who don’t give you an inch.

Still, the fact Northampton can name the likes of Kieran Brookes, Courtney Lawes and Tom Wood in their starting 15 is a major boost.

And those big names will be expected to produce another big performance this weekend, similar to the one during the second 40 minutes against Newcastle last Saturday.

Saints looked more like their old selves when finishing off the Falcons, and they will need that ruthless streak at Sale on Sunday.

Because November is a month that promises fireworks in the Premiership and the Champions Cup.

And what better way to start it than by setting the record straight at Sale.

Tom’s prediction: Sale 18 Saints 20