Exeter Chiefs v Northampton Saints: Tom Vickers' match preview

Tom Wood will start at six for Saints against Exeter (picture: Kirsty Edmonds)
Tom Wood will start at six for Saints against Exeter (picture: Kirsty Edmonds)

Fixture: Exeter Chiefs v Northampton Saints

Competition: Anglo-Welsh Cup (pool stages - game one)

Venue: Sandy Park, Exeter

Date: Saturday, November 4, 2017

Kick-off time: 3pm

Television coverage: None

Exeter Chiefs: M'Boge; O'Flaherty, Hendrickson, Devoto, Short; Simmonds, Chudley; Hepburn, Taione, Low; Atkins, Skinner; Freeman, Kvesic, Horstmann (c).
Replacements: Malton, Keast, Street, Salmon, Lawday, Maunder, Morley, Hill.

Saints: Furbank; Estelles, Hutchinson, Stephenson, Pisi; Myler, Reinach; van Wyk, Marshall, Hill; Craig, Day; Wood, Nutley, Dickinson (c).
Replacements: Fish, Beesley, Ford-Robinson, J Onojaife, Eadie, Mitchell, Grayson, Emery.

Outs: Saints: George North (knee), David Ribbans (ankle)

Referee: Matthew O'Grady

Most recent meeting: Saturday, April 29, 2017: Exeter Chiefs 36 Saints 12 (Aviva Premiership)

Tom's preview: It's fair to say that Saints could have been handed easier starts to their Anglo-Welsh Cup campaign.

But when it rains, it pours, and Jim Mallinder's men will have to play to their potential if they are to avoid a Sandy Park deluge on Saturday.

Exeter are a formidable force on home soil, as Saints again found out when losing 36-12 at the stadium back in April.

And while you may say the Chiefs might field a weaker side in the Anglo-Welsh Cup, recent history suggests it won't affect them at all.

Rob Baxter's men have made it to the past three finals in this competition, beating Saints at Sandy Park in 2014 before losing to Saracens at Franklin's Gardens in 2015 and being defeated by Leicester Tigers at The Stoop earlier this year.

The only thing that stopped them in 2016 was that the tournament didn't take place due to the Rugby World Cup.

So whatever the competition, it seems that the Chiefs take it very seriously.

Saints do, too, with their pedigree in this competition not exactly poor.

Jim Mallinder always fields very competitive teams and Saints have been in three of the past seven finals, claiming glory in 2010.

And with the Wanderers currently tearing up the Prem Rugby A League, the club will be confident of another tilt at the trophy this time round.

If they can get a result at Exeter, it would be some early statement.

And it would be a welcome shot in the arm after four successive defeats in all competitions.

Saints endured an onerous October, saturated with difficult fixtures.

It doesn't get much easier at the start of November thanks to this Exeter encounter.

But if Saints can battle through it and earn their first Sandy Park success since February, 2014, they would lay a platform for the following week's clash with the Dragons and, crucially, the Premiership meetings with Worcester and Sale later this month.

With the first team stuttering right now, the Wanderers players must step up and show they are worthy of taking the place of the men ahead of them in the pecking order.

So there will be no shortage of desire at Sandy Park this Saturday.

Tom's prediction: Exeter Chiefs 25 Saints 28