Tom Vickers’ Northampton Saints v Harlequins preview

Luther Burrell, who scored in the win at The Stoop last month, is back in the Saints side after recovering from injury (picture: Kirsty Edmonds)
Luther Burrell, who scored in the win at The Stoop last month, is back in the Saints side after recovering from injury (picture: Kirsty Edmonds)
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Fixture: Northampton Saints v Harlequins (Aviva Premiership - round 18)

Date/kick-off time: Sunday, March 27, 3.15pm

Weather forecast: 9C, showers

Referee: Tim Wigglesworth

Outs: Saints: Clark (shoulder)

Most recent meeting: Saturday, February 6, 2016: Harlequins 23 Saints 27 (Aviva Premiership - round 11)

Tom’s preview: It’s time for the final charge.

The cavalry has returned from the Six Nations, assembling in preparation for the most intense battles of the season.

During the next three rounds of Aviva Premiership matches, Saints square up to their main rivals for a top-four spot.

Harlequins head to Franklin’s Gardens on Sunday knowing a win against Saints would propel them above Jim Mallinder’s men in the standings.

Wasps are next, with Saints desperate to put a spanner in the works of a team who are currently flying.

And then, after the Champions Cup quarter-final at Saracens on April 9, Saints must clash with the old enemy, Leicester Tigers, at the Gardens.

Needless to say, any sort of slip-up can do real damage, especially if results elsewhere go badly.

So Saints will need all of the heavy artillery they possess to make the top four for a seventh successive season.

Thankfully for Mallinder’s men they have front row battering ram Kieran Brookes and wing wizard George North back in their ranks.

Dylan Hartley has also returned to the Gardens, although he is still recovering from the blow to the head he received when skippering England to the Grand Slam last Saturday.

Quins will be even more relieved to get their stars back, having endured a lean Six Nations period.

During a time when Saints have won five of their six Aviva Premiership games, Quins have won just two.

They suffered last-gasp agony at the hands of Saints last month and it is no surprise that they have missed their big guns.

Danny Care, Jamie Roberts and Mike Brown will add real talent to their backline and they will expect to finish the season strongly.

But Saints must ensure the barren run of Conor O’Shea’s side continues this weekend.

They can’t afford to dish out any Easter cheer, knowing every point is precious if they are to get back above Leicester and book that shot at the end-of-season shootout.

Saints have the weapons, now they just need to make sure they use them to the full effect.

Tom’s prediction: Saints 28 Harlequins 22