Tom Vickers' Northampton Saints v Newcastle Falcons preview
Fixture: Northampton Saints v Newcastle Falcons (Aviva Premiership - round nine)
Date and kick-off time: Friday, November 25, 2016, 7.45pm
Venue: Franklin’s Gardens, Northampton
Saints: Foden; Elliott, Burrell, Hutchinson, Collins; Myler, Kessell; A Waller, Haywood, Brookes; Craig, Day (c); Paterson, Gibson, Nutley. Replacements: Clare, E Waller, Hill, J Onojaife, Ludlum, Groom, Hanrahan, Wilson.
Newcastle Falcons: Tait; Goneva, Waldouck, Socino, Watson; Hodgson, Young; Vickers, Lawson, D Wilson; Green, Witty; Chick, M Wilson (c), Hogg. Replacements: Sowrey, Rogers, S Wilson, Civetta, Fonua, Egerton, Connon, Burdon.
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Outs: Saints: Tom Stephenson (broken leg), Harry Mallinder (ankle), Sam Dickinson (knee), Lee Dickson (rib), Campese Ma’afu, Dylan Hartley, Courtney Lawes, Api Ratuniyarawa, Teimana Harrison, Tom Wood, Louis Picamoles, George North, Nafi Tuitavake, George Pisi, Ken Pisi (all international duty), Calum Clark (suspended)
Referee: Andrew Jackson
Most recent meeting: Sunday, November 6, 2016: Newcastle Falcons 16 Saints 24 (Anglo-Welsh Cup)
Tom’s preview: Playing badly and winning is said to be a hallmark of a top team.
But at some point, that team has to really start putting others to the sword to keep the plaudits coming.
And how Saints would love a comfortable win this week.
Because while they have been squeezing past sides during the past four matches, they have yet to really get on the open road and cruise to victory.
You could understand the nervousness in the Premiership win against Gloucester at Franklin’s Gardens last month.
The team had endured a tough start to the season and wins were all that mattered.
And there is no doubt Saints showed more control at Worcester last week, except for during the very early and very late stages.
But they have not really made any side feel their full force this season.
Narrow victories have been the order of the day, but at least they are victories.
And Saints do have some momentum going into this week’s game.
They simply have to maintain that because what looms large on the horizon is a derby date at Leicester and a Champions Cup double-header against Leinster.
To go into the Tigers game with five successive wins to their name would be big for Saints.
And to go into it with a comprehensive victory against Newcastle would be even better.
It won’t be easy, as the Falcons are far improved from some of the teams they have fielded at the Gardens in the past.
But they still have a poor away record during the past few years, with their only recent win on the road in the league coming at Gloucester in September.
Consequently, Saints should get the job done this week.
And they will be desperate to get it done in style.
Tom’s prediction: Saints 25 Newcastle Falcons 11