Northampton Saints v Worcester Warriors: Tom Vickers' big match preview

Fixture: Northampton Saints v Worcester Warriors

By Tom Vickers
Friday, 3rd May 2019, 12:59 pm
Updated Friday, 3rd May 2019, 1:03 pm
Ken Pisi (left) will say farewell to Franklin's Gardens on Saturday
Ken Pisi (left) will say farewell to Franklin's Gardens on Saturday

Competition: Gallagher Premiership (round 21)

Venue: Franklin's Gardens, Northampton

Date and kick-off time: Saturday, May 4, 2019, 3pm

Television coverage: None

Referee: Christophe Ridley (14th Premiership game)

Saints: Tuala; Collins, Hutchinson, Burrell, Naiyaravoro; Biggar, Reinach; Waller (c), Marshall, Franks; Ratuniyarawa, Lawes; Gibson, Wood, Harrison.

Replacements: Ma'asi, van Wyk, Hill, Coles, Ludlam, Mitchell, Francis, Pisi.

Worcester Warriors: Pennell; Humphreys, Venter, Te’o, Adams; Weir, Hougaard; Waller, Annett, Schonert; Bresler, Barry; du Preez, Lewis, van Velze (c).

Replacements: Singleton, Black, Milasinovich, Fatialofa, Kitchener, Hill, Heaney, Lance.

Outs: Saints: Andy Symons (knee), Harry Mallinder (knee), Mike Haywood (knee), Dylan Hartley (knee), Paddy Ryan (knee), Fraser Dingwall (ankle), David Ribbans (ankle), Heinrich Brüssow (concussion), Alex Moon (ankle), James Craig (hamstring), Nafi Tuitavake (elbow), George Furbank (concussion).

Most recent meeting: Friday, December 21, 2018: Worcester Warriors 6 Saints 32 (Gallagher Premiership)

Tom's preview: As ever, the curtain will come down on a Franklin's Gardens season with tears in the eyes and memories packed into the kit bags of many players.

But amid all of the emotion that this Saturday's send-off for the likes of Luther Burrell, Ken Pisi and legendary stadium figure Geoff Allen will bring, Saints know there is a job to be done.

You would have struggled to see their current situation unfolding at many stages of the season.

Time and again, it felt like they might just have suffered a defeat or two too many, with the play-off race looking distant at times.

But, make no mistake, Saints are now firmly in it.

In fact, they are in control of it.

They currently sit fourth, knowing two bonus-point wins will book their place in the end-of-season shoot-out.

But there is plenty of work still needed to ensure the dream becomes a reality as they host Worcester this weekend before travelling to Exeter Chiefs on May 18 for the final match of the regular season.

That said, Saints couldn't be in much better spirits.

They are playing with a swagger, particularly on their travels, picking up three successive away wins.

At home, things have been more difficult, with the likes of Newcastle, Bristol and, most recently, Gloucester, able to win at the Gardens.

But Saints will expect to do better than in those encounters this weekend.

They face a Worcester side who secured Premiership survival last weekend and who now have nothing to lose.

That will make them dangerous in attack, but it could make them more relaxed in defence.

If it does, Saints will take advantage, with their razor-sharp attacking game, led by the likes of Cobus Reinach and Dan Biggar, capable of troubling the best, not just the rest.

Although it feels the black, green and gold are ahead of where it was expected they may be come the closing stages of the season, they now have a huge chance to do something special.

Confidence is high, wins are coming and things are falling into place for them, especially with the fixtures their rivals face.

But that only matters if Saints do their job.

And they will have to make sure they say goodbye to their club stalwarts in celebratory fashion come Saturday evening.

It is a big responsibility on the shoulders of the players who take to the field, but they have shown several times this season that they are more than capable of handling it.

Tom's prediction: Saints 36 Worcester 25