Tom Vickers’ Saracens versus Northampton Saints preview

Ken Pisi and Saints enjoy playing at Allianz Park (picture: Kirsty Edmonds)
Ken Pisi and Saints enjoy playing at Allianz Park (picture: Kirsty Edmonds)

Fixture: Saracens v Northampton Saints (Aviva Premiership - round three)

Date and kick-off time: Saturday, September 17, 3pm

Venue: Allianz Park, Barnet

Saints team: Tuala; K Pisi, G Pisi, Burrell, North; Myler, Dickson; Waller, Haywood, Brookes, Lawes, Paterson, Wood, Harrison, Picamoles. Replacements: Clare, Ma’afu, Hill, Dickinson, Gibson, Groom, Mallinder, Foden

Saracens team: Goode; Ashton, Bosch, Barritt, Wyles; Lozowski, Wigglesworth; M Vunipola, Brits, Du Plessis, Itoje, Hamilton, Rhodes, Burger, B Vunipola Replacements: George, Barrington, Figallo, Brown, Wray, Spencer, Taylor, Maitland

Injuries: Saints: Christian Day (ruptured bicep), JJ Hanrahan (ankle), Tom Stephenson (broken leg), Dylan Hartley (back)

Referee: Greg Garner

Most recent meeting: Saturday, April 9, 2016: Saracens 29 Saints 20 (Champions Cup quarter-final)

Tom’s preview: You won’t find any fear on the face of any member of the Saints squad heading to Saracens on Saturday.

Instead, excitement appears to be the overriding emotion in the Northampton camp.

When director of rugby Jim Mallinder was asked about travelling to Allianz Park this weekend, a broad smile was his initial reaction.

He then proceeded to talk about how much his men were looking forward to meeting the challenge.

He knows Saracens will be expected to prevail.

Some people have already started to crown them as champions - two games into this campaign!

That expectation for them to reign again comes from last season’s heroics, when they won both the Aviva Premiership and Champions Cup.

It comes from the manner in which they have started this season, smashing Worcester before seeing off Exeter at Sandy Park last weekend.

And it comes from the fact they have a plethora of England stars who never seem to drop out of form.

But none of that will scare Saints.

Mallinder’s men love being underdogs and they have used that tag to great effect in Barnet before.

Saints have the best record of any away side at Allianz Park, winning on three of their four league visits since the stadium opened in February, 2013.

They were beaten there in the Champions Cup quarter-final last season, but Saints were hugely understrength and still managed to push their hosts all the way.

So Mallinder’s belief in his side’s ability to win at Saracens is well founded.

“It’s going to be a great game, as it always is,” Mallinder said.

“It was interesting to see their result on Sunday.

“They’re a top side, we know that and it’s going to be a big test for us, but we’ll look forward to it.

“Away at Allianz Park, we quite enjoy going down there.

“It’s a short turnaround, but we’re really looking forward to it.”

And Mallinder’s confidence is echoed by his players.

“It’s always a tough battle there at Saracens, but the boys will be up for it and we’ll take a lot of positives from last weekend,” said Samoan wing Ken Pisi.

“Somehow the Saints always get up for games at Saracens.”

And Saints supporters will be hoping that affection for Allianz Park continues this weekend.

Tom’s prediction: Saracens 21 Saints 18