Northampton Saints v Saracens: Tom Vickers' big match preview

Reece Marshall scored the last time Saints met Saracens, who won 63-13 on their most recent visit to Franklin's Gardens in April (picture: Sharon Lucey)
Reece Marshall scored the last time Saints met Saracens, who won 63-13 on their most recent visit to Franklin's Gardens in April (picture: Sharon Lucey)

Fixture: Northampton Saints v Saracens

Competition: Gallagher Premiership (round three)

Venue: Franklin's Gardens, Northampton

Date and kick-off time: Saturday, September 15, 2018, 3pm

Television coverage: None

Referee: JP Doyle

Saints: Tuala; Naiyaravoro, Burrell, Francis, Collins; Biggar, Reinach; Waller (cc), Hartley (cc), Painter; Ribbans, Lawes; Haskell, Brüssow, Harrison.

Replacements: Haywood, van Wyk, Franks, Ratuniyarawa, Gibson, Mitchell, Symons, Mallinder.

Saracens: Williams; Strettle, Tompkins, Barritt (c), Lewington; Goode, Spencer; M Vunipola, George, Koch; Itoje, Skelton; Isiekwe, Rhodes, B Vunipola.

Replacements: Tolofua, Barrington, Lamositele, Kruis, Earl, Wigglesworth, Lozowski, Maitland.

Outs: Saints: Dom Barrow (hamstring), Alex Coles (knee), James Craig (concussion), Paul Hill (shoulder), Rory Hutchinson (knee), Reece Marshall (foot), Toby Trinder (foot), Tom Wood (groin), Ken Pisi (shoulder).

Most recent meeting: Saturday, April 7, 2018: Saints 13 Saracens 63 (Premiership)

Tom's preview: Following Saints' win against Harlequins at Franklin's Gardens last Friday night, a PA announcement was made about this weekend's clash with Saracens.

Fans were reminded that the champions would be coming to town and there was an audible groan as they left the ground.

That is hardly surprising considering Saints' recent history against their familiar foes.

The black, green and gold were obliterated not once, not twice, not even three times by Saracens last season.

The Barnet-based outfit racked up FOUR wins against Northampton, eclipsing their previous points tally on each occasion.

Saints were made to suffer to the tune of 237 points in total in those games as they struggled to find any solution to the Saracens problem.

And even when it looked like they had come up with the answer, the game drifted away from them in agonising fashion once again.

But the message from inside the Saints camp this week is that those matches are the past.

They are not thinking about what happened last season or even worrying about the fact that Saracens have won on each of their past five visits to Franklin's Gardens.

New boss Chris Boyd has rightly pointed out that this is a new Northampton team, while forwards coach Phil Dowson stressed it is dangerous to think about the 'ghosts of the past'.

And that is exactly the kind of attitude Saints need as they look to smash their Saracens hoodoo this weekend.

Because if they go behind early, they can't afford to take a second to dwell on the past and allow it to shape their future.

Saints need a clean slate, which is what Boyd was brought in to provide, and they desperately need to put their Saracens woes to bed.

A win would be incredible, but even a good performance and a much better defensive effort would go a long way so early in the Boyd era.

Saints would love to show they have finally turned a corner, having insisted they had prior to all four Saracens games last season.

It won't be easy, but a positive performance this weekend would go a long way to lifting the cloud of negativity that formed over Franklin's Gardens after Saracens won a Premiership semi-final there in 2015.

And it would be some statement from the new coaching and playing group if they are able to mastermind something special against such a strong side this Saturday.

Tom's prediction: Saints 18 Saracens 30