Lyon OU v Northampton Saints: Tom Vickers' big match preview

Fixture: Lyon OU v Northampton Saints

Friday, 17th January 2020, 12:03 pm
Updated Friday, 17th January 2020, 12:04 pm
Rory Hutchinson scored Saints' only try against Lyon in November

Competition: Champions Cup (Pool 1, game six)

Venue: Matmut Stadium

Date and kick-off time: Saturday, January 18, 2020, 1pm (UK time)

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Live television coverage: BT Sport 2

Weather forecast: 7c, mostly cloudy

Referee: Dan Jones (Wales)

Saints: Furbank; Tuala, Dingwall, Symons, Sleightholme; Biggar, Reinach; Waller (cc), Haywood, O Franks; Moon, Lawes; Wood, Ludlam, Harrison (cc).

Replacements: Fish, van Wyk, Painter, Ratuniyarawa, Coles, Taylor, Hutchinson, Mallinder.

Outs: Saints: Alex Mitchell (knee), Reuben Bird-Tulloch (hand), Jamie Gibson (ankle), David Ribbans (ankle), Matt Proctor (concussion), Piers Francis (concussion), Tom Collins (suspended game two of two)

Most recent meeting: Sunday, November 17, 2019: Saints 25 Lyon OU 14 (Champions Cup)

Tom's preview: It has been nine long years since Saints last won in France.

Eleven matches have come and gone - and none of them have been particularly enjoyable.

From Castres to Clermont to Racing to Montpellier, Saints have had some horrible days across the Channel.

But this Saturday, they have to ensure there is a happier ending to their trip to France.

They know they must take at least a point from their clash with Lyon at the Matmut Stadium if they are to retain any hopes of making the Champions Cup last eight.

Saints get the chance to make an early statement, with some of their rivals for one of three best runners-up spots not playing until a day later.

But to put the pressure on, they must win in France for the first time since Jim Mallinder's team beat Castres 23-12 on January 22, 2011.

It was a campaign that saw Saints go all the way to the Heineken Cup final, where they eventually suffered heartbreak at the hands of Leinster in Cardiff.

And this new crop of Northampton players must now bare their teeth on Europe's biggest stage.

They have already beaten Lyon this season, racing into a 19-0 lead by half-time before closing the game out to win 25-14 at Franklin's Gardens in November.

They got a grip of that game from the start, and that is what they must do again this weekend.

If Saints can build up some sort of lead, Lyon's desire to really trouble them will be tested.

The hosts have nothing to play for in this competition, but everything to play for in their domestic tournament as they currently sit second the Top 14.

However, Saints must prepare for the best version of Lyon while hoping for the worst.

They can't take anything for granted against a club who have the kind of budget that allows them to enjoy a huge amount of strength in depth.

They will be physically imposing and pose threats across the pitch, just as every French side Saints have faced since they last won there has.

It is a big ask for Chris Boyd's boys, but another great adventure in their development.

This band of Saints brothers is savouring every European mission that comes their way.

And if they can complete this one, they could have an even bigger match to look forward to come May.

Tom's prediction: Saints really need to win this weekend, but they have a poor recent record in France. That being said, I'm backing them to end that barren run at the Matmut Stadium. Lyon 17 Saints 27.