Northampton Saints v Benetton Rugby: Tom Vickers' big match preview

Fixture: Northampton Saints v Benetton Rugby

Friday, 10th January 2020, 12:27 pm
Updated Friday, 10th January 2020, 12:28 pm
Dan Biggar's dramatic late penalty won the game for Saints in Treviso in November

Competition: Champions Cup (Pool 1, game five)

Venue: Franklin's Gardens, Northampton

Date and kick-off time: Sunday, January 12, 2020, 1pm

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Television coverage: BT Sport 3

Weather forecast: 8c, mostly sunny

Referee: Pierre Brousset (France)

Saints: Furbank; Mallinder, Dingwall, Hutchinson, Naiyaravoro; Grayson, Taylor; van Wyk, Matavesi, Hill; Ratuniyarawa, Ribbans; Lawes, Ludlam, Harrison (c).

Replacements: Fish, B Franks, O Franks, Coles, Eadie, Reinach, Symons, Sleightholme.

Benetton Rugby: Hayward; Sarto, Benvenuti, Sgarbi (c), Ioane; Allan, Duvenage; Quaglio, Faiva, Pasquali; Zanni, Ruzza; Lazzaroni, Pettinnelli, Barbini.

Replacements: Makelara, Zani, Traore, Snyman, Fuser, Trussardi, Rizzi, Zanon.

Outs: Saints: Alex Mitchell (knee), Reuben Bird-Tulloch (hand), Jamie Gibson (ankle), Matt Proctor (concussion), Piers Francis (concussion), Tom Collins (suspended - game one of two).

Most recent meeting: Saturday, November 23, 2019: Benetton Rugby 32 Saints 35 (Champions Cup pool stages)

Tom's preview: For all the talk of Saints resting players against Leinster in Dublin in December, what can't be forgotten is that they are still very much alive in Europe.

They calculated that they could afford to lose at the Aviva Stadium and still progress as one of three best runners-up in the Champions Cup this season.

And now they are eager to achieve that aim.

They know that wins against Benetton and Lyon during the next two weeks would give them a real chance of making the quarter-finals.

And how they would love a bonus point or two, too.

If Saints did make the last eight, no matter who the opposition would be, it would represent a real achievement, especially when you consider it is their first season back in Europe's top tier competition after a year away.

And with a seemingly unbeatable Leinster team in their group, to finish second and still qualify would have to be considered impressive.

Come the quarter-finals, in a one-off knock-out game, you just never know what can happen.

But Saints must get there first.

Benetton so nearly provided a banana skin in Treviso back in November, with Dan Biggar's last-gasp penalty sealing a memorable win that ensured his team did not slip up on the big stage.

The fly-half's heroics made sure of a bonus-point win that put Saints in a strong position.

And though Leinster dented their hopes during December, they still harbour dreams of what could be in Europe during the current campaign.

Their next two games are against sides who will be ready to turn their attentions to domestic action, leaving the door open for Saints.

And they will now need to be ruthless if they are to walk through it.

Benetton and Lyon won't just lie down and let Saints win.

But they may not be quite as motivated as they were during the first two rounds of this season's tournament.

Consequently, Saints have a big chance to deliver what they and their fans would love in the Champions Cup.

They have not been to the quarter-finals of the competition since 2016.

And how they would savour another shot at the big time if they can complete their Italian and French missions in the next two weeks.

Tom's prediction: Saints really need to bag a bonus-point win here and I'm backing them to do it. They will hope to tire Benetton out and strike during the second half. Saints 35 Benetton 14.