Fixture: Northampton Saints v Saracens (Aviva Premiership round four)
Date/kick-off time: Saturday, November 7, 3.15pm
Weather forecast: 15C, mostly cloudy
Referee: Luke Pearce
Saints: Foden; Elliott, G Pisi, Burrell, North; Myler, Fotuali’i; A Waller, Hartley, Brookes; Craig, Day; Gibson, Wood (c), Dickinson.
Replacements: Haywood, E Waller, Hill, Paterson, Harrison, Dickson, Hanrahan, Tuala.
Saracens: Goode; Ashton; Taylor; Barritt; Wyles; Farrell, Wigglesworth; M Vunipola, Brits, Du Plessis; Kruis, Hargreaves (c); Itoje, Burger, B Vunipola.
Replacements: George, Barrington, Figallo, Rhodes, Brown, Spencer, Hodgson, Bosch.
Outs: Saints: James Wilson (arm), Jon Fisher (illness), Calum Clark (shoulder), Courtney Lawes (knee), Alex Corbisiero, Victor Matfield (rested)
Most recent meeting: Saturday, May 23: Saints 24 Saracens 29 (Aviva Premiership play-off semi-final)
Tom’s preview: A new era for Saints begins with the team needing to get back to old ways.
This weekend, Jim Mallinder’s men will play in front of the Barwell Stand, which has replaced the Sturtridge Pavilion, for the first time in a competitive fixture.
It is a signal of a bright future as Saints continue to grow, seeking to compete with Europe’s best by bringing in extra revenue from higher attendances.
It is said that if you build it, they will come.
And the fans certainly will come in their numbers this weekend as they hope to see their team dish out a beating to rivals Saracens.
But to do that, Saints will need a marked improvement on their three performances during the formative stages of this Aviva Premiership season.
Aside from the second half-showing against a Newcastle Falcons team who were eviscerated at home by Exeter Chiefs last weekend, Saints have shown little of the talent that took them to the top of the Premiership pile last season.
They have yet to dominate up front and the backline has not quite gelled, with Tom Wood labelling the team showing in last Sunday’s disappointing 20-13 defeat at Sale Sharks as ‘rubbish’.
Saints are desperate to overcome that loss, their second in three matches, this weekend.
And who better to do it against than a Saracens side who currently boast a 100 per cent record and who crushed Saints’ title dreams in the Premiership play-off semi-final at the Gardens in May.
Oh, and they also beat Jim Mallinder’s men in the LV= Cup final-four clash at Allianz Park two months earlier.
So, revenge needs to be served at a cold Gardens this weekend.
A bright future needs a bright start.
And you can bet Saints will be giving everything to be celebrating in front of the resplendent Barwell Stand come 5pm on Saturday evening.
Tom’s prediction: Saints 25 Saracens 20