Tom Vickers’ Northampton Saints v Gloucester preview
Fixture: Northampton Saints v Gloucester (Aviva Premiership round five)
Date/kick-off time: Friday, November 27, 7.45pm
Weather forecast: 6C, light rain
Referee: Greg Garner
Saints: Foden; Tuala, G Pisi, Burrell, North; Myler, Fotuali’i; A Waller, Haywood, Brookes; Paterson, Day; Gibson, Wood (c), Dickinson.
Replacements: Williams, E Waller, Hill, Matfield, Fisher, Dickson, Hanrahan, K Pisi.
Gloucester: Cook; Sharples, Meakes, Hook, May; Twelvetrees (c), Heinz; McAllister, Hibbard, Afoa; Savage, Thrush; Moriarty, Kvesic, Morgan.
Replacements: Dawidiuk, Thomas, Doran-Jones, Galarza, Kalamafoni, Laidlaw, Purdy, Rowan.
Outs: Saints: Wilson (arm), Clark (shoulder), Lawes (knee), Hartley (concussion), Corbisiero.
Most recent meeting: Saturday, March 7: Gloucester 33 Saints 33 (Aviva Premiership)
Tom’s preview: Saints are not unfamiliar with topping tables.
They topped the Aviva Premiership standings last season for the first time and they currently sit at the summit of their Champions Cup pool after last Saturday’s stunning 26-15 win at Glasgow.
But what they are not so used to is seeing the club name etched next to double figures.
That is exactly how it is right now though, as Saints languish in a lowly 10th position in the Premiership.
It might only be early days - and no one truly thinks they will finish there - but it should be incentive enough to get past Gloucester on Friday night.
Whether they pay any attention to the table or not - the guess is that their pride will be slightly dented by the current league position - Saints know they have little margin for error.
They cannot afford to drop any more points at home, having lost two away games and one at Franklin’s Gardens, to Saracens.
And they will fully believe that they can avoid another slip-up, especially with confidence coursing through their veins after the Scotstoun success.
Needless to say, that performance was Saints’ best of the season to date.
They allied devastating forward power with impressive backline prowess, leaving the Warriors, last season’s Guinness Pro12 champions, floundering.
It was what every Saints fan had wanted to see from their side, a performance to be really proud of.
And how they would love another this week.
Games against Gloucester are never boring, with last season’s two league meetings producing no less than 125 points.
Saints smashed the Cherry and Whites in a 53-6 opening-night demolition before showing real spirit to earn a 33-33 draw at Kingsholm in March.
Expect another points-fest this week as Saints seek to put the west country side to the sword again.
And if they can, they will start to move back towards a league position more befitting of the quality in the team.
Tom’s prediction: Saints 28 Gloucester 17