Dragons v Northampton Saints: Tom Vickers' big match preview

Fixture: Dragons v Northampton Saints

Friday, 2nd April 2021, 12:13 pm
Updated Friday, 2nd April 2021, 12:14 pm
Taqele Naiyaravoro scored twice when Saints beat the Dragons in 2018

Competition: Challenge Cup (last 16)

Venue: Rodney Parade, Newport

Date and kick-off time: Saturday, April 3, 2021, 5.30pm

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Weather: Mostly sunny, 11c

Live television coverage: BT Sport ESPN

Referee: Alexandre Ruiz (France)

Dragons: J Williams, Holmes, Owen, Roberts, Hewitt, S Davies, R Williams (c), Bateman, Dee, Fairbrother, Davies, Screech, Wainwright, Keddie, Moriarty.

Replacements: T Davies, Reynolds, Brown, Carter, Baker, Bertranou, Lloyd, Tompkins.

Saints: Mallinder; Sleightholme, Dingwall, Hutchinson, Naiyaravoro; Grayson, Mitchell; Auterac, Haywood, Painter; Moon, Coles; Isiekwe, Tonks, Harrison (c).

Replacements: Matavesi, Waller, Heffernan, Bean, Adendorff, Taylor, Tuala, Collins.

Outs: Saints: Dan Biggar (abdominal), David Ribbans (face), Owen Franks (foot), George Furbank (calf), Danny Hobbs-Awoyemi (Achilles), Courtney Lawes (pectoral), Lewis Ludlam (cheek), Matt Proctor (calf), Api Ratuniyarawa (shoulder), Kayde Sylvester (Achilles).

Most recent meeting: Saturday, December 8, 2018: Saints 48 Dragons 14 (Challenge Cup pool stages)

Tom's preview: Saints have had it pretty easy against the Dragons in Europe over the years - but all the signs are that it will be far from straightforward at Rodney Parade on Saturday evening.

This must be easily the best Dragons team the black, green and gold have faced as it is lined with Wales internationals past and present.

Dean Ryan has really got the Welsh region in decent shape and they come into this weekend's last-16 clash on the back of impressive wins against Glasgow and Edinburgh.

So there will definitely be no taking the Dragons lightly as Saints look to register their seventh successive win against them.

In 2018, Saints racked up a whopping 13 tries in two Challenge Cup meetings with the Welsh outfit.

And they come into this match on the back of putting nine past Worcester Warriors.

But they will need all of the swagger they showed at Sixways if they are to set up a home quarter-final against Harlequins or Ulster next weekend.

The Dragons are now a force to be reckoned with, boasting Six Nations winners such as Nick Tompkins and Aaron Wainwright.

But these are the kinds of tests you have to pass if you want to win trophies at home and abroad.

Saints would dearly love to go all the way in the Challenge Cup, just as they did during the sensational 2013/14 season, when they also claimed their first Premiership crown.

The Challenge Cup proved to be the catalyst for final success against Saracens at Twickenham.

And Saints desperately need that kind of momentum in the closing stages of this campaign.

They have been a bit hit and miss at times, but there is no doubt they have been building well since a tricky start to the season.

They have shown their pedigree on the road, winning at Gloucester, Wasps, Exeter and Worcester during 2021.

And they will need to do it all again against the Dragons this weekend.

Tom's prediction: This is a really tough game for Saints, but when they bring their A game, they are a match for anyone, and they could just edge this. Dragons 24 Saints 29.