Northampton Saints v Saracens: Tom Vickers' big match preview

Fixture: Northampton Saints v Saracens

Friday, 31st December 2021, 12:10 pm
Updated Friday, 31st December 2021, 12:12 pm
Harry Mallinder when Saints last hosted Saracens

Competition: Gallagher Premiership

Venue: cinch Stadium at Franklin's Gardens, Northampton

Date and kick-off time: Sunday, January 2, 2022, 3pm

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Weather forecast: 11c, light rain

Live television coverage: None

Referee: Adam Leal

Saints: Furbank; Sleightholme, Hutchinson, Francis, Skosan; Biggar, Mitchell; Waller, Matavesi, Hill; Coles, Ratuniyarawa; Lawes, Ludlam (c), Augustus.

Replacements: Fish, Iyogun, Carey, Ribbans, Wood, James, Dingwall, Tuala.

Saracens: Malins; Maitland, Lozowski, Tompkins, Daly; Goode, Davies; M Vunipola, George (c), Beaton; Itoje, Isiekwe; McFarland, Earl, B Vunipola.

Replacements: Woolstencroft, Mawi, Milasinovich, Hunter-Hill, Wray, van Zyl, M Vunipola, Segun.

Not considered for Saints selection: Matthew Arden, Nick Auterac, Callum Burns, Tommy Freeman, Teimana Harrison, Mike Haywood, Oisin Heffernan, Reece Marshall, Alex Moon, Taqele Naiyaravoro, Matt Proctor, Kayde Sylvester

Most recent meeting: Saturday, February 29, 2020: Saints 21 Saracens 27 (Gallagher Premiership)

Tom's preview: When you've lost your past three matches, one of the last things you probably want to see is Saracens heading through your home gates.

Because though they have had the salary cap scandal to overcome in recent times, the men from the StoneX Stadium still pack a real punch.

It was more than enough to floor Worcester Warriors last weekend as they were drubbed 61-29 on Boxing Day.

A day later, Saints headed to Twickenham hoping for some Gallagher Premiership solace on the back of two tough Champions Cup clashes.

But what they got was another defeat, scoring just six points in the final 65 minutes of the match as they surrendered a 21-7 lead to the champions.

Chris Boyd's side are in need of a shot in the arm to kick-start their top-four bid at the beginning of the new year.

But if they are to get it, they are going to have to find a way to solve their disciplinary problems.

Saints have been sinners this season, struggling to avoid giving opposition sides penalties.

When the pressure comes on against the best teams, the black, green and gold so often find themselves on the wrong side of the referee.

And they know that if they present Saracens with opportunities this weekend then 2022 will not get off to a flying start.

Saracens have shown over many years that they are capable of piling on the pain for Saints.

And somehow Saints must find a way to make sure the first match of the new year is played to their beat rather than that of their familiar foes.

If the hosts can get a grip on the breakdown and at least achieve parity at scrum time, they can give themselves the kind of platform they need to prevail.

But that is of course easier said than done against a side packed full of international stars.

Saints know that it would be a real statement win if they could give their supporters a victory to cheer this weekend.

And how meaningful it would be as Boyd's men bid to return to the top four not just for this weekend but for the year ahead.

Tom's prediction: It would be great for Saints fans to welcome the new year in with a win, but this Saracens side is formidable and this may just be too big an ask. Saints 23 Saracens 31.