Ospreys v Northampton Saints: Tom Vickers' match preview

Harry Mallinder will start at full-back for Saints (picture: Kirsty Edmonds)
Harry Mallinder will start at full-back for Saints (picture: Kirsty Edmonds)

Fixture: Ospreys v Northampton Saints

Competition: Champions Cup Pool 2 (game four)

Venue: Liberty Stadium, Swansea

Date: Sunday, December 17, 2017

Kick-off time: 3.15pm

Television coverage: BT Sport 3

Ospreys: Evans; John, Fonotia, Watkin, Hassler; S Davies, Habberfield; Smith, Baldwin, Arhip; B Davies; Wyn Jones (c); Lydiate, Tipuric, Cracknell.
Replacements: Otten, James, Fia, Beard, McCusker, Webb, Biggar, Beck.

Saints: Mallinder; Tuala, Horne, Stephenson, Foden (c); Francis, Groom; Van Wyk, Haywood, Ford-Robinson; Ribbans, Paterson; Gibson, Wood, Harrison.
Replacements: Marshall, Ma'afu, Hill, Ratuniyarawa, Ludlam, Reinach, Burrell, Pisi.

Outs: Saints: Dylan Hartley (illness), Courtney Lawes (rested), Kieran Brookes (hand), Tom Collins (foot), Alex Waller (arm), Charlie Clare (knee), George North (knee)

Referee: Marius Mitrea (Italy)

Most recent meeting: Saturday, December 9, 2017: Saints 32 Ospreys 43 (Champions Cup)

Tom's preview: In times of turbulence, strong characters come to the fore.

And the Saints squad, which is blessed with leaders, will be asked to stand up and be counted in Swansea on Sunday.

It has been a week of change at Franklin’s Gardens, following the decision by the board to call time on Jim Mallinder’s 10-year stay as director of rugby.

The boss had seen his side suffer nine defeats in 10 matches, the latest of which was the nadir, as Saints lost 43-32 at home to an injury-ravaged Ospreys side last Saturday.

That game, played in front of a barely half-full Gardens, was the final straw for the club’s board.

And now a new director of rugby is being sought, as well as a short-term replacement who can supplement the likes of attack coach Alan Dickens and forwards coach Dorian West.

But for the players, the job remains the same.

They must bring pride back to the shirt and start helping the club to climb out of the hole it has found itself in.

Now more than ever, they need to galvanise. To stand together to turn the tide.

And with a chance to exact revenge on Ospreys coming so soon, they have a huge chance to answer the calls of their disappointed supporters.

During Mallinder’s time in charge, Saints became experts of turning things around in Europe.

They bounced back from big defeats to the likes of Ulster and Leinster to upset their opponents just a week later.

And their mission is the same this week.

Ospreys will inevitably be sniffing blood.

After all, the five points the Welsh region picked up on their visit to Northampton last weekend has put them in a strong position in Champions Cup Pool 2.

It was their first away win in Europe’s top tier competition and they are hot on the heels of Saracens, who were demolished by Clermont Auvergne at Allianz Park on Monday evening.

Ospreys now really believe they can make the quarter-finals and they will be confident of taking advantage of wounded Saints once again.

Over the years, the green, black and gold have been able to pride themselves on their inner steel and their bouncebackability.

And how they need to rediscover those qualities this weekend.

Tom's prediction: Ospreys 22 Saints 14