Saracens v Northampton Saints: Tom Vickers' match preview

Dylan Hartley will lead Saints at Twickenham on Saturday (picture: Kirsty Edmonds)
Dylan Hartley will lead Saints at Twickenham on Saturday (picture: Kirsty Edmonds)

Fixture: Saracens v Northampton Saints

Competition: Aviva Premiership - round one

Venue: Twickenham

Date: Saturday, September 2, 2017

Kick-off time: 2pm

Television coverage: BT Sport 1

Saracens: Goode; Maitland, Taylor, Barritt (c), Earle; Lozowski, Wigglesworth; Barrington, Brits, Koch; Day, Kruis; Itoje, Burger, Wray.

Replacements: Spurling, Thompson-Stringer, Figallo, Isiekwe, Rhodes, Spencer, Bosch, Wyles.

Saints: Tuala; Foden, Tuitavake, Burrell, Collins; Mallinder, Groom; Waller, Hartley (c), Brookes; Lawes, Day; Wood, Ludlam, Eadie.

Replacements: Haywood, Ma'afu, Hill, Ribbans, Gibson, Mitchell, Grayson, Pisi.

Outs: Saints: Piers Francis (jaw), Stephen Myler (knee), Tom Stephenson (dead leg)

Referee: Craig Maxwell-Keys (35th Premiership game)

Most recent meeting: Sunday, April 16, 2017: Saints 25 Saracens 27 (Aviva Premiership)

Tom's preview: Saints will start the 2017/18 season how they ended the 2013/14 campaign.

And how they would love this year to resemble that one.

Jim Mallinder's men have been craving more success since beating Saracens at Twickenham and lifting their first Aviva Premiership title three years ago.

They finished top of the pile in 2015, but couldn't convert as Saracens won in the play-off semi-final at Franklin's Gardens.

And that disappointing day set the tone for the next two seasons as Saints lost their winning habit, finishing fifth and seventh respectively.

Now they are eager to get back to where they believe they belong.

They feel they should be mixing it with the likes of Saracens, Wasps, Exeter and, of course, local rivals Leicester Tigers.

But now they have to show why they deserve to place themselves among that group of teams - and finish above them.

Saracens have won two Premiership titles and two Champions Cup trophies since losing to Saints on that magical May day in 2014.

Their rise has been incredible and Saints have looked on enviously.

But when the clubs go toe to toe yet again this weekend, Jim Mallinder's men get a chance to lay a marker down.

And how they need to, especially as the clubs will also lock horns in the Champions Cup group stages this season.

Saints have lost the past three meetings between the teams, but they should have beaten Saracens at Stadium MK in April, surrendering a 25-12 lead to lose 27-25.

The final 25 minutes of that match were agonising as Saints failed to keep their composure, meaning all the attacking excellence during the early stages of the game went to waste.

They will need to be watertight this weekend and take their chances when they come.

It sounds simple, but against Saracens, nothing ever is.

Nevertheless, with plenty of Northampton folk roaring the team on at Twickenham, there are reasons to believe.

And if Saints can show the kind of spirit they did in that dramatic extra-time win at English rugby HQ three years ago, anything is possible.

Tom's prediction: Saracens 24 Saints 28