Tom Vickers’ Northampton Saints v London Welsh preview

Saints won at London Welsh in November (picture: Kirsty Edmonds)
Saints won at London Welsh in November (picture: Kirsty Edmonds)

Fixture: Northampton Saints v London Welsh (Aviva Premiership - round 21)

Date/kick-off time: Saturday, May 9, 3.15pm

Venue: Franklin’s Gardens

Weather forecast: 16C, showers

Referee: Andrew Small

Saints: Tuala; K Pisi, G Pisi, Burrell, Elliott; Myler, Dickson; A Waller, Hartley (c), Denman; Lawes, Day; Wood, Clark, Manoa.

Replacements: Haywood, Corbisiero, Ma’afu, Dickinson, Fisher, Fotuali’i, Stephenson, Wilson.

London Welsh: Jewell; Awcock, Reynolds, May (c), Elder, Barkley, Rowley, Trevett, Britton, Cooper, West, Corker, Browne, Waters, Fonua.

Replacements: Morris, Aholelei, Gilding, Down, McNally, Liston, Lewis, Robinson.

Outs: Saints: Ben Foden (knee), George North (concussion). London Welsh: Nathan Vella, Matthew Dobson, Harry Allen, Shane Cahill, Taione Vea, Pablo Henn, Carl Kirwan, Alex Davies, Tim Molenaar, James Lewis, Nick Scott, Seb Stegmann (all injured), Chris Hala’ufia (suspended).

Most recent meeting: Sunday, November 30: London Welsh 14 Saints 43 (Aviva Premiership)

Tom’s preview: So this is it: the month that makes or breaks a team’s season.

The month when dreams are realised or ruined.

For players, May could end with a celebratory dance-off on the Twickenham pitch or an early holiday.

For fans, it could conclude with adulation in the Twickenham stands or in front of the TV watching another club’s supporters rejoicing.

Last May, it was the Saints players who were doing the dancing and the Saints fans who were sampling the delight of a first league crown.

And this year, Jim Mallinder’s men are in a great position to repeat history.

They need just two points to be sure of a home play-off semi-final and it would take an upset greater than David’s much talked about victory against Goliath to stop them.

Because with a London Welsh team who have lost all 30 of their games this season coming to town on Saturday, the chance to get the job done couldn’t be a better one.

Saints will surely not only claim the win, but the bonus point, too, to make sure of top spot in the process.

That would provide plenty of satisfaction as never before have Saints finished the season top of the Premiership pile.

And they would then have the enjoyment of heading to Welford Road next weekend to try to boot their local rivals, Leicester Tigers, out of the play-off race.

That is for another day, but it is clear that Saints are taking this Saturday’s clash very seriously.

There has been a little surprise that the team they have named is so strong.

In fact, you would say it is not too far off their likely play-off team.

But the players have had two weeks since their last game - the 25-20 success against Saracens - and it is important for them not to stagnate.

Also, if any knocks are picked up this weekend, they should have the luxury of resting those men at Leicester next Saturday, while still trying to maintain momentum.

As attack coach Alex King admitted earlier in the week, it is a great position to be in.

One Saints would have craved last summer when some doubted their ability to defend their title.

Now they have to make it count in the month of the season that means so much.

Tom’s prediction: Saints 52 London Welsh 10