Northampton Saints v Exeter Chiefs: Big match preview

Fixture: Northampton Saints v Exeter Chiefs
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Competition: Gallagher Premiership (round five)

Venue: cinch Stadium at Franklin’s Gardens, Northampton

Date and kick-off time: Sunday, November 12, 2023, 3pm

Alex Mitchell is back for Saints (photo by EMMANUEL DUNAND/AFP via Getty Images)Alex Mitchell is back for Saints (photo by EMMANUEL DUNAND/AFP via Getty Images)
Alex Mitchell is back for Saints (photo by EMMANUEL DUNAND/AFP via Getty Images)

Weather forecast: 8c, light rain

Live television coverage: TNT Sports and ITV

Referee: Craig Maxwell-Keys

Assistant referees: Jack Makepeace and Jamie Leahy

No.4: Richard Gordon

TMO: Rowan Kitt

Saints: Hendy; Seabrook, Freeman, Dingwall (c), Ramm; F Smith, Mitchell; A Waller, Langdon, Hill; Moon, Munga; Lawes, Scott-Young, Graham.

Replacements: S Matavesi, E Waller, Davison, Coles, Pearson, James, Hutchinson, Litchfield.

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Exeter Chiefs: Wyatt; Feyi-Waboso, Slade, Hawkins, Hammersley; Skinner, Cairns; Abuladze, Frost, Iosefa-Scott; Jenkins (c), Pearson; Roots, Vermeulen, Vintcent.

Replacements: Yeandle, Sio, Painter, Tuima, Davis, Armstrong, Haydon-Wood, Hendrickson.

Not available for Saints selection: Juarno Augustus, Toby Cousins, George Furbank, Emmanuel Iyogun, Tarek Haffar, Temo Mayanavanua, Burger Odendaal, Robbie Smith.

Most recent meeting: Saturday, January 7, 2023: Exeter Chiefs 35 Saints 12 (Gallagher Premiership)

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Saints director of rugby Phil Dowson: “Exeter are doing very well. They're really engaged in what they're trying to do. Rob Baxter is a fantastic coach and he's got them on the front foot in pretty much every facet of the game. They've got a young group but they've got some stalwarts in there with Vermeulen and Slade, and Skinner has obviously played a lot of games as well. He's brought guys through, Cairns at nine is a handful, Roots, the back rower, looking really powerful, really strong and they've won three out of four.”

Exeter Chiefs director of rugby Rob Baxter: “Saints very much back their attacking game, you can’t run away from that. Over the last couple of years there never seems to have been a game where they’re not capable of scoring tries. And that obviously creates pressure in itself, because it doesn’t matter whether you’ve got them in a close game or you feel like you’re pulling away – you always know they’ve got a try-scoring ability and they’ll back themselves to get back to that. Outside of that, currently I think they’ve got one of the highest performing set pieces in the Premiership as well and that gives you a great foundation, as we’ve seen in the last four games. And so, I think they’ll challenge us in a lot of the similar ways that we’ll look to challenge them. I would like to think it could be one of those games, that afterwards there could be a lot of really positive stories about the quality of a game, with two teams trying to be positive at the set piece and positive about how they play rugby

Tom Vickers’ prediction: Another week, another huge test up front for Saints. Exeter’s starting front row and replacements are capable of causing real problems so Saints will need the set-piece solidity they showed against Bath last Saturday. If they can get that, they can secure the win. Saints 27 Exeter Chiefs 23.