Wasps v Northampton Saints: Tom Vickers' big match preview

Fixture: Wasps v Northampton Saints

By Tom Vickers
Friday, 3rd January 2020, 12:58 pm
Updated Friday, 3rd January 2020, 12:59 pm
Saints celebrated a Fraser Dingwall score at the Ricoh Arena last season but they were unable to win there once again
Saints celebrated a Fraser Dingwall score at the Ricoh Arena last season but they were unable to win there once again

Competition: Gallagher Premiership (round eight)

Venue: Ricoh Arena, Coventry

Date and kick-off time: Sunday, January 5, 2019, 3pm

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Television coverage: BT Sport 2

Weather forecast: 8c, partly cloudy

Referee: Matthew Carley (91st Premiership game)

Wasps: Minozzi; Kibirige, Fekitoa, Le Bourgeois, Watson; Umaga, Robson; West, Taylor, Brookes; Launchbury (c); Matthews; Willis, Young, Carr.

Replacements: Cruse, Owlett, Toomaga-Allen, Flament, Vailanu, Porter, Gopperth, de Jongh.

Saints: Furbank; Tuala, Hutchinson, Francis, Collins; Biggar, Reinach; Waller (cc), Haywood, Hill; Moon, Ribbans; Lawes, Wood, Harrison (cc).

Replacements: Matavesi, van Wyk, O Franks, Ratuniyarawa, Ludlam, Taylor, Proctor, Naiyaravoro.

Outs: Saints: Alex Mitchell (knee), Reuben Bird-Tulloch (hand), Jamie Gibson (ankle), James Mitchell (ankle), Andy Symons (head).

Most recent meeting: Saturday, September 28, 2019: Saints 32 Wasps 36 (Premiership Rugby Cup pool stages)

Tom's preview: New year, but will it be the same old outcome at the Ricoh Arena on Sunday afternoon?

Saints have found it so tough to be successful in Coventry, winning there just once in seven previous competitive matches.

They have come close so often, but, as at the AJ Bell Stadium, where they have lost twice in two matches this season, it has been far from a happy hunting ground.

And as at the AJ Bell, they know they may have to create their own atmosphere and inner motivation this weekend.

"You're not going to get a huge buzz out of the crowd," said scrum-half Henry Taylor, speaking earlier this week.

So Saints will hope to develop their own buzz against Wasps, something they haven't often managed to do in recent meetings.

In fact, they have only won one of their previous eight Premiership games against this weekend's opponents.

It is a record that the players and coaches probably won't think much of going into this renewal of rivalries.

But it is one that needs rectifying nonetheless.

Wasps will, of course, be confident of continuing their hot streak against Saints, especially after claiming a morale-boosting win at Bristol last Friday.

But this is an open ground against a team that likes to play open rugby, and that really should suit Chris Boyd's side.

The Ricoh Arena environment and the team that plays there allows a quick counter-attacking game to be played by the away side.

And that is something Saints love.

It is not a boggy Bath pitch or a suffocating Sale experience.

Saints have often been able to score plenty of points against Wasps, but their failures at the other end of the field have been what has cost them.

They must maintain the level of defensive discipline they showed last weekend, when they conceded just six penalties against Gloucester.

And with the powerful bench they have at their disposal, they should have more ability late on than they did against the Cherry and Whites last weekend.

If they can stay resolute, they have the razor-sharp attack to take advantage and claim another precious Premiership away win in the first game of 2020.

And how sweet it would be for them to do it at a ground that has provided them with very few happy memories during years gone by.

Tom's prediction: Wasps will undoubtedly be a big threat and will fancy their chances of scoring plenty of points, but Saints have the stronger squad overall and really should win this one. It won't be easy, but I'm backing Chris Boyd's side to do the job. Wasps 22 Saints 30.