Tom Vickers' Harlequins versus Saints preview
Fixture: Harlequins v Northampton Saints (Aviva Premiership - round six)
Date and kick-off time: Saturday, October 8, 2016, 3pm.
Venue: The Stoop, Twickenham
Harlequins: Brown; Yarde, Alofa, Roberts, Visser; Evans, Dickson; Marler, Buchanan, Sinckler; Merrick, Horwill (c); Robshaw, Wallace, Chisholm. Replacements: Gray, Lambert, Collier, Twomey, Luamanu, Mulchrone, Swiel, Marchant.
Saints: Tuala; K Pisi, G Pisi, Burrell, North; Myler, Groom; A Waller, Haywood, Brookes; Lawes, Paterson; Wood (c), Clark, Harrison. Replacements: Clare, E Waller, Hill, Dickinson, Picamoles, Dickson, Mallinder, Foden.
Injuries: Saints: Dylan Hartley (back), Christian Day (bicep), Tom Stephenson (broken leg), Jamie Elliott (shoulder), James Craig (concussion)
Referee: Ian Tempest
Most recent meeting: Sunday, March 27, 2016: Saints 29 Harlequins 23 (Aviva Premiership)
Tom’s preview: Once upon a time, Saints really struggled to secure victories against Harlequins.
Whatever they did, it seemed that the men from Twickenham had the beating of them when it mattered most.
Between January, 2010 and May, 2013, Saints beat Quins just once in seven meetings and that barren spell included an agonising Aviva Premiership play-off semi-final defeat at The Stoop.
But during the past couple of years, the tables have definitely turned.
Now it is Saints who hold the Indian Sign over their rivals.
In fact, Harlequins have lost their past seven meetings with Jim Mallinder’s men.
Try as they might, they have simply been unable to get the better of Saints.
And even when it looked for all the world like they would, back in February, Ben Botica failed to kick the ball out to end the game and Ben Foden bagged a dramatic match-winning try.
It was the ultimate hammer blow to a Harlequins team who just haven’t been able to find a way to beat Saints.
But why haven’t they?
Well, George Pisi’s explanation was the most simplistic: “We beat them up,” he said.
Pisi is well aware of Quins’ class, but when it comes to the power game, Saints have showed they have the edge.
And you would expect that to be the case again this weekend, with the likes of Kieran Brookes, Louis Picamoles and George North fit and firing.
Those men provide big ball-carrying options that Quins might find it tough to live with.
And Saints should expect to continue their fine record this weekend.
However, Quins are never easy to beat, especially at home, where they have won both of their games this season.
They became the first side to beat Saracens in what seemed like an age, and have plenty of dangermen in their ranks.
But Saints need to make sure they nullify them again this Saturday.
They need to get more Premiership points on the board.
They need to back up last week’s thrilling win against Exeter.
And the need to take momentum into the Champions Cup, which starts next weekend.
Quins would appear to be the perfect opposition to achieve those aims against, given Saints’ recent record against them.
But as all of the Saints players and coaches were keen to points out this week, the past is just that.
Records mean nothing and are there to be broken.
But Saints need to make sure theirs remains intact this weekend.
Tom’s prediction: Harlequins 18 Saints 23