Tom Vickers’ Racing 92 v Northampton Saints preview

Fixture: Racing 92 v Northampton Saints (Champions Cup round three)

Saturday, 12th December 2015, 5:58 am
George North and Saints claimed a stunning win at Glasgow last month

Date/kick-off time: Saturday, December 12 (3.15pm)

Weather forecast: 11C, partly cloudy

Referee: George Clancy (Ireland)

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Racing 92: Dulin; Rokocoko, Laulala, Chavancy, Imhoff; Carter, Phillips; Ben Arous, Szarzewski (c), Tameifuna; Charteris, van der Merwe; Lauret, Nyanga, Masoe.

Replacements: Chat, Brugnaut, Gomes Sa, Carizza, Claassen, Dumoulin, Machenaud.

Saints: Foden; Elliott, Burrell, Stephenson, North; Hanrahan, Dickson (c); A Waller, Haywood, Brookes; Paterson, Matfield; Lawes, Harrison, Dickinson.

Replacements: Williams, E Waller, Hill, Day, Gibson, Fotuali’i, Myler, Tuala.

Most recent meeting: Saturday, January 24: Saints 8 Racing 32 (Champions Cup)

Tom’s preview: In last season’s Champions Cup pool stages, Saints endured double French - and they were taught a couple of sobering lessons.

The first was that you can never lower your standards at the home of a Top 14 team, as Racing scored a late try to deprive Jim Mallinder’s men of a losing bonus point in Paris.

The second was that if you simply don’t turn up, you will get hammered, leaving you downbeat and befuddled.

Saints had put in such a spirited display at Stade Yves-du-Manoir, where the noise of the home fans’ drums weighed heavy on their souls as they surrended a late score.

But they were far from spirited in the home match that followed a few months later as Racing took them to task.

This year, with no Italian minnows to roll over - Saints easily claimed 10 points from Treviso last season - points are so precious.

And Saints will know that they can’t afford to draw two blanks in their double Racing reunion in the coming weeks.

They need to maintain the momentum that has seen them claim four successive wins, one of which, the 26-15 victory at Glasgow, saw them produce a stunning display.

They will have to hit that level and more against Racing this weekend, with the French team boasting a stellar squad, which includes New Zealand fly-half Dan Carter.

But if Mallinder’s men can do as they have to Scarlets, Glasgow, Gloucester and Bath in recent weeks, strangling the opposition into submission, they have a chance.

This Saints pack is reminiscent of the one which dominated Europe on the way to the Heineken Cup final in 2010/11.

And if they can get more joy in that area this weekend, they will hope to pass the French test with flying colours.

If they don’t, Racing will run riot and Saints will again be left pointless by the star-studded French side.

Tom’s prediction: Racing 20 Saints 10