Tom Vickers’ Northampton Saints versus Wasps preview

LOSING FEELING - Saints lost for the third time in four outings at Leicester Tigers last Saturday (Picture: Kirsty Edmonds)
LOSING FEELING - Saints lost for the third time in four outings at Leicester Tigers last Saturday (Picture: Kirsty Edmonds)

Fixture: Northampton Saints v Wasps (LV= Cup - match four)

Date/kick-off time: Saturday, February 7, 3.15pm

Venue: Franklin’s Gardens

Weather forecast: 6C, mostly cloudy

Referee: Steve Lee

Saints: Tuala; K Pisi, Waldouck, Stephenson, Elliott; Olver, Fotuali’i; Corbisiero, Williams, Denman; Ryder, Craig; Dowson (c), Harrison, Dickinson.

Replacements: Haywood, E Waller, Ma’afu, Woolford, Nutley, A Day, Hooley, G Pisi.

Wasps: Miller; Bassett, Daly, Helu, Varndell; Lozowski, Gash; Yapp, Lindsay, Taylor; Rowlands, Cannon; Jackson (c), Young, Thompson.

Replacements: Festuccia, McIntyre, Cooper-Wooley, Myall, N Hughes, Goode, G Hughes, Eastwell.

Outs: Saints: Fisher (foot), Lawes (ankle), Foden (knee), Wood (ankle), Myler (calf) Hartley, Burrell, North (all international duty). Wasps: Launchbury (neck), Haskell, Masi (both international duty).

Most recent meeting: Sunday, September 14: Wasps 20 Saints 16 (Aviva Premiership)

Tom’s preview: The cliche ‘get back on the horse’ has not been used too often when talking about Saints in recent seasons.

But there is no doubt that Jim Mallinder’s men could do with a smoother ride when they welcome Wasps this weekend.

January saw Saints suffer three defeats, which is only four less than they endured during the entirety of 2014.

A sobering afternoon at Sale, a rout at the hands of Racing Metro and a plucky loss at Leicester means the past four games have produced three doses of disappointment.

And Saints will be desperate to buck that irksome trend at Franklin’s Gardens on Saturday.

The defeat at Welford Road, which saw a number of youngsters perform valiantly, has provided a platform for what is now another east midlands derby this weekend.

Wasps, who moved to Coventry from High Wycombe in December, have been causing a buzz in the region, with their form making others take note.

Leicester were so affected that they put up a billboard outside the Ricoh Arena which read “On your doorstep since 1880”.

But Saints will only want to do their talking on the pitch.

They know they must secure a bonus-point win against their new local rivals to have any chance of remaining in the LV= Cup.

And although it is not a competition that is widely coveted, it is one Saints would dearly love to remain in.

This season’s final will be played at the Gardens at March, and Northampton are desperate to be at their own party.

The last time this particular cup final came to town - in 2011 - Gloucester got the better of Newcastle in a low-key affair.

But if Saints were present, it would be a worthwhile occasion and one embraced by those who regularly attend games at the Gardens.

First though, Mallinder’s men must beat Wasps and hope that the other east midlands outfit, Leicester, deprive Cardiff of a point in the Welsh capital.

It’s a big ask, but one Saints must believe is possible.

Because even if they do not make it through to the semi-finals, they still need to return to winning ways, with the Premiership action just around the corner.

London Irish come to town next Friday, with Saints currently just ahead of Bath in the race for the league’s top spot.

And if they can get over this weekend’s hurdle, they will be firmly back in the saddle for the challenges ahead.

Tom’s prediction: Saints 37 Wasps 15