Tom Vickers’ London Irish v Northampton Saints preview

OVER TO YOU MATE - Mike Haywood replaces the injured Dylan Hartley at London Irish
OVER TO YOU MATE - Mike Haywood replaces the injured Dylan Hartley at London Irish

Fixture: London Irish v Northampton Saints (Aviva Premiership round five)

Date/kick-off time: Saturday, October 4 (3pm kick-off)

Venue: Madejski Stadium, Reading

Weather forecast: 17C, sunny

London Irish: Fenby; Lewington, Mulchrone, Geraghty, Short; Noakes, O’Leary; Court, Paice, Aulika, Skivington, Sinclair, Low, Cowan, Narraway

Replacements: Stevens, Parr, Halavatau, Leo, Guest, Allinson, Sheridan, Ojo

Saints: Foden; K Pisi, G Pisi, Burrell, North; Myler, L Dickson; A Waller, Haywood, Ma’afu; Lawes, Craig; Clark, Fisher, Manoa.

Replacements: McMillan, E Waller, Denman, Dowson, Harrison, Fotuali’i, Hooley, Wilson

Outs: London Irish: Treviranus (rib), Steele

Saints: Dickinson (neck), Corbisiero (shoulder)

Most recent meeting: Sunday, April 20: Saints 36 London Irish 21

Tom’s preview: A couple of weeks ago, Saints were handed a cautionary tale by local rivals Leicester Tigers.

Richard Cockerill’s injury-ravaged side left The Rec with their tails placed firmly between their legs after a 45-0 evisceration at the hands of Bath.

It was a game watched by the Saints coaching staff via dodgy 3G on the bus up to Newcastle - and it certainly raised a few eyebrows.

It also served to spike Saints’ survival instincts the following week as they were fully prepared for the battle that lay in wait at Franklin’s Gardens.

That is not to say they would not have been otherwise, but there is no doubt the events of the week before had an impact on the build-up.

Bath were beaten, with their 100 per cent record looking likely to be ended in savage style before a late west country revival salvaged some pride, and a losing bonus point.

At the same time as that was occurring, Tigers were taking on London Irish at Welford Road.

And with Saints preparing for a trip to the Madejski Stadium this weekend, there were obviously curious glances towards what was happening up the M1.

As it happened - Jim Mallinder and his men were handed another warning as Irish turned over Tigers.

That spirited 22-19 success was greeted with adulation in the Gardens stands, with a roar greeting the announcement of a second successive Tigers loss.

But once again, the Saints players and management were given fuel.

They had heeded the warning Tigers’ defeat at Bath had provided - and they know they will have to do so again this Saturday.

Should Saints avoid a slip-up at Irish, it would most certainly be a case of the enemy of my enemy is my friend.

Because while for so long Tigers have been the ones setting the standard, now they are the ones setting the alarm bells ringing.

There can be little doubt that Cockerill’s clan will bounce back.

They always do.

But in the mean time, they are providing some salutary lessons for their nearest and far from dearest.

Saints supporters have certainly enjoyed engaging in a touch of schadenfreude where their near neighbours are concerned.

And they will hope their side can preserve the bragging rights by ensuring Irish’s impressive victory against Tigers is not repeated in Reading this weekend.

Tom’s prediction: London Irish 20 Saints 21