Northampton Saints v London Irish: Tom Vickers' match preview

Saints won at London Irish in September (picture: Kirsty Edmonds)
Saints won at London Irish in September (picture: Kirsty Edmonds)

Fixture: Northampton Saints v London Irish

Competition: Aviva Premiership

Venue: Franklin's Gardens, Northampton

Date and kick-off time: Saturday, February 17, 2018, 3pm

Referee: Ian Tempest

TV coverage: None

Saints: Tuala; North, Horne, Burrell, Foden; Francis, Groom; Ma'afu, Haywood, Brookes; Ratuniyarawa, Day (c); Gibson, Brüssow, Harrison.

Replacements: Marshall, van Wyk, Ford-Robinson, Ribbans, Wood, Reinach, Myler, Tuitavake.

London Irish: Marshall; Cokanasiga, Fowlie, McLean, Lewington; Tonks, van Zyl; Franks, Paice, Hoskins; van der Merwe (c), Paulo; Botha, Northcote-Green, Treviranus.

Replacements: Porecki, Elrington, Du Plessis, De Chaves, Gilsenan, Steele, Bell, Tikoirotuma.

Outs: Saints: Alex Waller (arm), James Craig (knee), Dylan Hartley, Courtney Lawes, Harry Mallinder (international duty)

Most recent meeting: Sunday, September 24, 2017: London Irish 25 Saints 40 (Aviva Premiership)

Tom's preview: It's fair to say that things haven't exactly gone smoothly for Saints and London Irish since their meeting at the Madejski Stadium back in September.

Between them, they have accrued just two league wins from a combined total of 20 matches since that Berkshire battle.

And both of those victories have come from Saints.

Irish have not been victorious in the Aviva Premiership since stunning Harlequins on the opening day at Twickenham.

While Saints have only beaten Quins and Gloucester since scoring six tries in a 40-25 win at London Irish.

It was the only league win of the campaign for the black,green and gold, who have struggled on the road in all competitions.

But they have at least started to piece together some home form of late.

Saints have won all three of their games at the Gardens in 2018 and players continually talk of rebuilding the fortress, brick by brick.

They should add another one to the Gardens wall this weekend, with Saints supporters fully expecting their side to prevail.

If they can, they can put any thoughts, however small, about relegation to bed.

To be honest, even if Irish win at the Gardens, it would still require a minor miracle for them to avoid the drop, considering they have only previously won once this season.

And Saints, rightly, insist they are looking up the league table rather than down.

With four tough away fixtures to come, finishing in the top six looks a tough ask.

But Saints' minimum requirement must be to keep giving their home supporters something to shout about.

And they have another big opportunity to do that this weekend.

Tom's prediction: Saints 30 London Irish 18