Northampton Saints v Saracens: Tom Vickers' big match preview

Saints suffered a big defeat to Saracens on the opening day of the season (picture: Kirsty Edmonds)
Saints suffered a big defeat to Saracens on the opening day of the season (picture: Kirsty Edmonds)

Fixture: Northampton Saints v Saracens

Competition: Champions Cup Pool 2 - match one

Venue: Franklin's Gardens, Northampton

Date: Sunday, October 15, 2017

Kick-off time: 5.30pm

Television coverage: BT Sport 2

Saints: Tuala; North, Burrell, Francis, Foden; Myler, Reinach; Waller, Hartley (c), Brookes; Paterson, Ribbans; Lawes, Gibson, Harrison.

Replacements: Haywood, van Wyk, Ford-Robinson, Ratuniyarawa, Wood, Groom, Mallinder, Collins.

Saracens: Goode; Williams, Bosch, Barritt (c), Wyles; Farrell, Wigglesworth; M Vunipola, George, Koch; Isiekwe, Kruis; Itoje, Clark, Wray.

Replacements: Brits, Barrington, Figallo, Day, Burger, Spencer, Lozowski, Taylor.

Outs: Saints: Mitch Eadie (ankle), Rob Horne (ankle), Lewis Ludlam (illness)

Referee: Pascal Gauzere (France)

Most recent meeting: Saturday, September 2, 2017: Saracens 55 Saints 24 (Aviva Premiership)

Tom's preview: Saints certainly don't need any reminders of what happened at Twickenham on September 2.

Because they have been using it as motivation ever since.

And this weekend, Saints will be super-charged as they look to exact some rather swift revenge on Saracens.

There is no getting away from it - Jim Mallinder's men owe Sarries one. Or nine, which is the amount of tries Saints shipped on the opening day of the Aviva Premiership season.

That soul-destroying day at English rugby HQ has not haunted the green, black and gold, it has inspired them.

They used it to hit the ground running in the following week's fixture against Leicester Tigers, ending a near three-year wait for a win against their local rivals.

They then proceeded to beat Bath, London Irish and Harlequins as they moved to the summit of the Aviva Premiership.

And though they were beaten at Gloucester last weekend, putting in a defensive showing that had echoes of that display against Saracens, Saints are still in pretty good shape.

But they will have to be to beat a Saracens side who have made the Champions Cup their own during the past two seasons.

They have been masters of the European art, making winning at difficult venues look easy.

And they will expect to do the same against Saints on Sunday.

But Mallinder's men, as they have repeatedly pointed out this week, like going under the radar.

They used the 'Why not us?' phrase as motivation as they marched to Allianz Park in May 2013 to shock Saracens and claim a place in the Premiership final.

When the expectation is on another team's shoulders, Saints can be a dangerous beast.

And if they can play the kind of pressure-free rugby that propelled them past the likes of Leicester and Bath, they have a good chance this weekend.

It is a big if, as Saracens are a teak-tough side, but Saints certainly couldn't have any more fuel in the tank.

And with a close to fully fit squad at their disposal, don't write them off as they motor into Europe this weekend.

Tom's prediction: Saints 20 Saracens 17