Northampton Saints v Sale Sharks: Tom Vickers' match preview

Saints came so close to victory at Sandy Park last Saturday (picture: Sharon Lucey)
Saints came so close to victory at Sandy Park last Saturday (picture: Sharon Lucey)

Fixture: Northampton Saints v Sale Sharks

Competition: Aviva Premiership

Venue: Franklin's Gardens, Northampton

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

Television coverage: None

Referee: Wayne Barnes

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

Replacements: Marshall, van Wyk, Ford-Robinson, Paterson, Gibson, Reinach, Myler, Pisi.

Sale Sharks: Haley; Solomona, Addison (c), L James, Yarde; S James, De Klerk; Harrison, Webber, John; Evans, Ostrikov; Ross, B Curry, Strauss.

Replacements: Jones, Flynn, Aulika, Beaumont, Neild, Cliff, McGuigan, Charnley.

Outs: Saints: Alex Waller (arm), James Craig (knee), David Ribbans

Most recent meeting: Saturday, January 27, 2018: Sale Sharks 20 Saints 24 (Anglo-Welsh Cup)

Tom's preview: More of the same will be what the Saints supporters who battle The Beast From The East will be asking for at Franklin's Gardens on Saturday afternoon.

More of the attacking swagger their side showcased at Sandy Park last weekend.

More of the spirit their side have displayed in four wins from as many home matches in 2018.

And more of the winning mentality that has seen their side win nine successive Gardens games against Sale Sharks, who have not been victorious in Northampton since May 2006.

What they won't want more of is the snow that has put many sporting fixtures under threat this weekend.

And they won't want another late opposition blitz like the one that saw Exeter snatch victory from Saints' icy grip last Saturday.

For the remainder of this season, wins would be welcomed but entertainment is paramount.

Saints are not in danger of relegation, while reaching the top six looks a tough ask with the gap now 13 points with just six games to go.

Some signs of life for the future and value for money is what Saints supporters would love now.

They have been getting that at the Gardens since the turn of the year, thanks to determined displays in wins against Gloucester, Clermont Auvergne, Harlequins and London Irish.

The team refused to relent in those matches, battling to the end to ensure that the spoils would be theirs.

Saints did the same last weekend at Exeter, but the cards didn't quite fall in their favour when it mattered most.

Nevertheless, there were plenty of positives, such as the centre partnership of Rob Horne and Luther Burrell, a much better performance up front and the teamwork on show for each of the three eye-catching scores.

More of the same would make venturing through the snow worth it for the fans.

And that is what it is all about this weekend.

Tom's prediction: Saints 18 Sale 13