Bath v Northampton Saints: Tom Vickers' big match preview

Fixture: Bath v Northampton Saints

Friday, 8th November 2019, 12:30 pm
Updated Friday, 8th November 2019, 12:30 pm
Saints and Bath have battled it out in some scrappy encounters at The Rec in recent years

Competition: Gallagher Premiership (round four)

Venue: The Recreation Ground, Bath

Date and kick-off time: Saturday, November 9, 2019, 3pm

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Television coverage: None

Weather forecast: 7c, showers

Referee: Ian Tempest (63rd Premiership game)

Bath: Burns; Rokoduguni, Wright, Roberts, Brew; Priestland, Chudley; Obano, Dunn, Stuart; McNally, Ewels; Ellis, Bayliss, Mercer.

Replacements: Walker, Boyce, Judge, Stooke, Williams, Cook, WIllison, Hamer-Webb.

Saints: Furbank; Collins, Dingwall, Hutchinson, Naiyaravoro; Grayson, Taylor; Franks, Haywood, Painter; Ribbans, Moon; Wood, Gibson, Harrison.

Replacements: Fish, Trinder, Hill, Ratuniyarawa, Coles, J Mitchell, Strachan, Tuala.

Outs: Saints: Harry Mallinder (knee), Alex Mitchell (knee), Reece Marshall (hamstring), Reuben Bird-Tulloch (hand), Alex Waller (shoulder), Andy Symons (back).

Most recent meeting: Saturday, February 23, 2019: Saints 27 Bath 26 (Gallagher Premiership)

Tom's preview: The choice of coach at Saints' pre-match media day was apt this week as Phil Dowson was the man designated to field questions.

Dowson was the ideal person for the inquisition, given the nature of the game that will be expected at Bath on Saturday afternoon.

The home side, now bossed by Stuart Hooper, savour a forward scrap.

They turned on the power on a few occasions as they fell just short at Wasps last weekend.

And they showed their muscle during the previous weekend as they defeated Exeter Chiefs in a trademark west country arm wrestle.

If the conditions are wet and windy, Bath love nothing more than putting the squeeze on, as shown in recent meetings with Saints.

The black, green and gold have lost each of their past four encounters at The Rec, and they will not look back on any of them with much glee.

Though the margins have so often been so fine, Saints have struggled to come out on the right side of them.

In fact, in three of those four defeats, Saints lost by just two points or fewer.

They have not won at Bath in any competition since December 2015. The margin of victory that day? Two points.

So you can see just how close the two teams have been in matches on Bath soil in recent seasons.

And few will expect it to be any different this weekend.

But, if conditions do somehow play into Saints' hands, then they are capable of cutting any opposition apart.

They were in devastating form for 35 first-half minutes against Harlequins last Friday, going from 3-0 down to 27-3 up in the blink of the eye.

Confidence is coursing through this team and if the pack can at least gain parity this weekend, the backs can do some serious damage.

Bath will want to strangle them from the start.

But if Saints do manage to get out of the home side's iron grip, they have a chance to go into next weekend's Champions Cup opener at home to Lyon in an enviable position.

And that is a huge incentive for Chris Boyd's side this weekend as they bid to maintain their 100 per cent start to what is already proving to be a particularly lively season.

Tom's prediction: Bath are a really tough team to beat on their own turf, as Saints have found out during recent years, but this Chris Boyd team doesn't fear going away from home. They have already won at Leicester and Saracens this season, and if they can get to grips with Bath's power, they can win here, too. Bath 15 Saints 20