Tom Vickers’ Bath v Northampton Saints preview

Fixture: Bath v Northampton Saints (Aviva Premiership - round 15)

Friday, 20th February 2015, 11:42 am
GOING FOR THE DOUBLE? - Saints are aiming to finish top of the league, and then go on an win the play-off grand final

Date/kick-off time: Saturday, February 21, 3.15pm

Venue: The Rec

Weather forecast: 6C, mostly sunny

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Referee: Greg Garner

Bath: Homer; Rokoduguni, Burgess, Eastmond, Woodburn; Devoto, Young; James, Webber, Thomas; Hooper (c), Day; Garvey, Louw, Fearns.

Replacements: Batty, Auterac, Palma-Newport, Faosiliva, Houston, Stringer, Jennings, Arscott.

Saints: Wilson; K Pisi, G Pisi, Stephenson, Elliott; Myler, Dickson (c); A Waller, Haywood, Denman; Craig, Day; Manoa, Clark, Dickinson.

Replacements: Williams, Corbisiero, Mercey, Harrison, Dowson, Fotuali’i, Olver, Tuala.

Outs: Bath: David Wilson (neck), Dave Attwood, George Ford, Jonathan Joseph, Anthony Watson (all international duty). Saints: Fisher (foot), Lawes (ankle), Foden (knee), Wood (ankle), Hartley, Burrell, North (all international duty) Ma’afu (suspended - week one of two).

Most recent meeting: Saturday, September 27: Saints 31 Bath 24 (Aviva Premiership)

Tom’s preview: If you see things as some at Saracens do, there are two types of Premiership champions.

There are those known as ‘Premiership league winners’ and those who pick up the silverware at Twickenham in May.

After losing to Saints at HQ in a dramatic denouement last season, Saracens crowned themselves ‘league winners’ in articles on their website.

They bolstered their brand by making the most of the fact they had finished top of the regular-season table.

And although it is a hollow title as Saints were the ones grabbing hold of the silverware, there is some pride that can be garnered from ending a season at the summit.

It shows that you have been the most consistent team over 22 rounds and suggests your squad has stood up best to the scrutiny it is under during international periods.

But there is no substitute for actually being officially handed the tag of champions by those who dish it out.

There is no substitute for that winners medal that will sit somewhere in the house of Dylan Hartley, of Samu Manoa, of Calum Clark.

Those men are champions and that, whether or not some like how Premiership glory is handed out, is how they will stay.

Saints would dearly love to taste Twickenham glory again this season.

But it is now also time for them to do the imaginary title double.

Jim Mallinder’s men will know the trophy is all that really matters, but there is no doubt they would like to claim it after finishing top.

They have the players to do it, and, knowing the standards within the coaching staff and playing squad, it is something they will be aiming for.

And how crucial a win at Bath on Saturday could be to achieving that goal.

Saints can go as much as 10 points clear of their closest rivals by conquering The Rec.

They can make a statement that they are at the summit to stay.

And they can take another step towards taking that creative tag from Saracens, too.

Tom’s prediction: Bath 25 Saints 27