Northampton Saints v Gloucester: Tom Vickers' big match preview

Saints have lost twice to Gloucester this season, with the defeat in the Premiership Rugby Cup clash at Kingsholm the most recent meeting between the teams
Saints have lost twice to Gloucester this season, with the defeat in the Premiership Rugby Cup clash at Kingsholm the most recent meeting between the teams

Fixture: Northampton Saints v Gloucester

Competition: Gallagher Premiership (round 18)

Venue: Franklin's Gardens

Date and kick-off time: Sunday, April 7, 2019, 3pm

Television coverage: BT Sport 1

Referee: Craig Maxwell-Keys

Saints: Furbank; Tuala, Hutchinson, Francis, Naiyaravoro; Biggar, Reinach; van Wyk, Marshall, Hill; Moon, Lawes; Ludlam, Brüssow, Harrison (c).

Replacements: Dawidiuk, Waller, Franks, Ratuniyarawa, Gibson, Mitchell, Burrell, Pisi.

Gloucester: Hudson; Banahan, Twelvetrees, Atkinson, Sharples; Cipriani, Heinz (c); Hohneck, Marais, Balmain; Slater, Mostert; Ackermann, Kriel, Morgan.

Replacements: Sherry, Rapava Ruskin, Dreyer, Savage, Clarke, Polledri, Braley, Seabrook.

Outs: Saints: Andy Symons (knee), Harry Mallinder (knee), Mikey Haywood (knee), Dylan Hartley (knee), Ehren Painter (calf), Paddy Ryan (knee), James Haskell (toe), Fraser Dingwall (ankle), David Ribbans (ankle), James Fish (concussion).

Most recent meeting: Friday, November 9, 2018: Gloucester 14 Saints 12 (Premiership Rugby Cup pool stages)

Tom's preview: Saints had two all or nothing matches in the month of March, and it feels very much like they are starting April with one, too.

Because if they lose to Gloucester at Franklin's Gardens on Sunday, it would seem extremely unlikely that they will make the play-offs in the Gallagher Premiership this season.

But if they win, they would take another big step towards the top four.

They can't end the weekend in the play-off positions no matter what happens, but they can really start breathing down the necks of third-placed Gloucester and fourth-placed Harlequins.

With five games to go, Saints are eight points behind Quins and nine adrift of Gloucester.

But they play both in the next two matches, meaning there are two huge opportunities to make up some ground.

That would propel Saints into the final three fixtures - away to Newcastle, at home to Worcester and away to Exeter - in high spirits and a with a strong league standing.

And there is no reason why Chris Boyd's men should not prevail in the race for a play-off place.

But even if they don't make it, if they could secure a top-six finish, it would be a job well done.

A Premiership Rugby Cup triumph, a European Challenge Cup quarter-final appearance and a top-six finish would be above what many would have expected from Saints.

Their progress under Boyd has been impressive and whatever happens now, it looks like they will have enjoyed a strong first season under the Kiwi boss.

But if they could just claim a few more wins between now and the end of an entertaining campaign, it would be a real boost for the club going into the summer.

Gloucester will not go quietly this weekend and they have already shown they can win away to their rivals, having cruised past Quins at The Stoop.

But Saints will believe that they can get the job done in front of their own fans.

And if they do, they will set themselves up for what will feel like another knockout game six days later.

Tom's prediction: Saints 25 Gloucester 23