Northampton Saints v Bath: Tom Vickers' big match preview

Fixture: Northampton Saints v Bath

By Tom Vickers
Wednesday, 26th August 2020, 12:49 pm
Saints haven't won a league game at Franklin's Gardens since beating Gloucester in the final match of 2019
Saints haven't won a league game at Franklin's Gardens since beating Gloucester in the final match of 2019

Competition: Gallagher Premiership (round 16)

Venue: Franklin's Gardens, Northampton

Date and kick-off time: Wednesday, August 26, 2020, 7.45pm

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Weather: 18c, partly cloudy

Live television coverage: BT Sport 2

Referee: Christophe Ridley (25th Premiership game)

Saints: Mallinder; Tuala, Dingwall, Francis, Naiyaravoro; Biggar, Taylor; Auterac, Fish, Franks; Ribbans, Ratuniyarawa; Lawes, Tonks, Harrison (c).

Replacements: Matavesi, van Wyk, Painter, Bean, Uru, James, Hutchinson, Freeman.

Bath: De Glanville; Rokoduguni, Clark, Redpath, Hamer-Webb; Matavesi, Chudley; Obano, Walker, Judge; W Spencer, Stooke; Williams, Bayliss (c), Mercer.

Replacements: Dunn, Boyce, Stuart, Ewels, Reid, B Spencer, Priestland, McConnochie.

Outs: Saints: Alex Coles (ankle), Ollie Sleightholme (hamstring), Connor Tupai (wrist), Alex Waller (Achilles), Tom Wood (pulmonary embolism).

Most recent meeting: Saturday, November 9, 2019: Bath 22 Saints 13 (Gallagher Premiership)

Tom's preview: Fortress Franklin's Gardens has been more free house Franklin's Gardens during 2020.

And Saints desperately need to change that on Wednesday night.

Because if they don't and they go on to suffer a fifth home loss in as many league matches at the Gardens in 2020, their play-off hopes will be hanging by a thread.

Not only would they lose much-needed points for themselves, but they would give one of their top-four rivals a real boost.

So it is hard to understate the importance of this match for Chris Boyd's men.

They got up and running with a strong second-half showing at London Irish last weekend, earning a 27-3 bonus-point success.

It was a third win in four league away games during 2020.

But it has been at home where they have surprisingly struggled.

Irish, Bristol, Saracens and, since the restart, Wasps, have all won in Northampton.

And though there won't be any fans there to help them turn that ship around in home territory, the players must make sure they do it in this midweek match-up.

Saints are a proud club with proud traditions and they are rightly proud of their home ground.

And now it is time for them to take the keys back by seeing off Bath and adding extra fuel to their title flame.

They are fielding two separate teams during a hectic schedule, and both are saturated with ability.

As attack coach Sam Vesty pointed out this week, Saints, playing a high-skill game, needed more time to get up and running than sides who opt for a more basic approach.

And this group of players have now had their practice outing.

They know they need to perform, and take the chances that they didn't when a ruthless Wasps side won at the Gardens earlier this month.

Saints have the players and the style of play to unlock a Bath team who threw a lot of their eggs in the Welford Road basket last weekend.

This week's opposition have left out stars such as Anthony Watson, Sam Underhill and Taulupe Faletau.

But the belief they possess, allied with the strong bench they have at their disposal, makes them a dangerous proposition.

It is all set up, but this week simply has to be the one when home comforts return for Saints.

Tom's prediction: Bath fielded a lot of their big guns at Leicester last weekend and have opted to rest a lot of them, while Saints can bring back some international stars and really should have more than enough power and prowess to pick up a crucial home win. Saints 32 Bath 15