Tom Vickers' Saracens v Northampton Saints preview

Fixture: Saracens v Northampton Saints (Champions Cup quarter-final)

By The Newsroom
Friday, 8th April 2016, 1:40 pm
Updated Friday, 8th April 2016, 1:42 pm
Stephen Myler and Lee Dickson scored for Saints in their win at Saracens in March (picture: Sharon Lucey)
Stephen Myler and Lee Dickson scored for Saints in their win at Saracens in March (picture: Sharon Lucey)

Date/kick-off time: Saturday, April 9 (5.45pm)

Weather forecast: 7C, partly cloudy

Referee: Jerome Garces (France)

Saracens: Goode; Ashton, Taylor, Barritt (c), Wyles; Farrell, Wigglesworth; M Vunipola, Brits, Du Plessis; Itoje, Kruis; Wray, Fraser, B Vunipola.

Replacements: Saunders, Barrington, Lamositele, Hargreaves, Rhodes, De Kock, Bosch, Ransom.

Saints: Foden (c); K Pisi, G Pisi, Burrell, Elliott; Myler, Fotuali’i; A Waller, Haywood, Hill; Craig, Day; Lawes, Nutley, Harrison.

Replacements: Marshall, Ma’afu, Denman, Matfield, Paterson, Kessell, Hanrahan, Mallinder.

Outs: Saints: Clark (shoulder), Hartley, Brookes, Dickson (all concussion), Stephenson (foot), Dickinson (knee), Gibson (ankle), Tuala (hip), North, Wood, Fisher, Collins, Wilson.

Most recent meeting: Saturday, March 5: Saracens 15 Saints 20 (Aviva Premiership - round 15)

Tom’s preview: “When you play Saracens you need as many of your top players as possible,” Jim Mallinder said on Wednesday.

But just two days later, the Saints boss named a team shorn of Dylan Hartley, Kieran Brookes, Jamie Gibson, Tom Wood and George North, among others.

The club has been hit hard by injuries of late, robbing them of big-name players at the very point in the season when the big games have rolled round.

It will be hard for Northampton not to feel hard done by this weekend.

Not only because of those absences - three of which are due to concussion - but because they face a Saracens team that is pretty much at full strength.

And the Barnet-based outfit can also head into this clash having enjoyed two days’ extra rest as they played at Bath last Friday, while Saints were beaten up by Wasps on Sunday.

It all seems to have fallen in favour of a side who boast 20 wins from 25 games in all competitions this season.

But Saints will certainly not be fazed by being forced to go under the radar this weekend.

They have shown they can make the most of the underdog tag at Allianz Park before, winning at the ground in the Aviva Premiership play-off semi-final in 2013.

No one gave them a chance in that knock-out clash, but under the banner of ‘Why not us?’, which they hung in the away dressing room, they shocked Sarries with an immense display.

They will need a similar level of performance to upset the odds again this weekend, with Saracens’ stars ready to avenge the defeat to Saints back in March.

On that day, the home side were without their England men and they will be a much stronger prospect this time round.

But another thing Mallinder spoke about this week was emotion.

And if Saints can get themselves fully charged for this encounter, they will not go quietly.

Many of these players have been involved in big European wins at Ulster and Leinster in years gone by.

On both of those occasions, Saints weren’t seen to have a hope, with injuries forcing them to place square pegs in round holes.

But they dealt with it and their sheer will to win got them over the line.

Defensively, they refused to give their Irish opponents a sniff and at the other end, they took their chances when they came.

They failed on both counts against Wasps last weekend, but Saints have produced big responses to big defeats before.

And their hope on Saturday night is that history can repeat itself on a number of fronts.

They have won three of their five games at Allianz Park since the ground opened in January, 2013.

And this would probably be the biggest of the lot if they can slay Sarries and set up a semi-final at the Madejski Stadium on April 23.

Tom’s prediction: Saracens 23 Saints 16