Tom Vickers' Wasps v Northampton Saints preview
Fixture: Wasps v Northampton Saints (Aviva Premiership - round 19)
Date and kick-off time: Sunday, April 9, 2017, 3pm
Venue: Ricoh Arena, Coventry
Wasps: Le Roux; Wade, Daly, Beale, Bassett; Gopperth, Simpson; Mullan, Taylor, Swainston; Launchbury (c), Myall; Johnson, Young, Thompson.
Replacements: Cruse, Bristow, Doran-Jones, Symons, Hughes, Robson, Cipriani, Leuia.
Saints: Tuala; North, Tuitavake, Mallinder, Foden; Myler, Groom; A Waller, Hartley, Brookes; Lawes, Ribbans; Gibson, Wood (c), Picamoles.
Replacements: Haywood, E Waller, Hill, Ratuniyarawa, Harrison, Dickson, Burrell, K Pisi.
Referee: Craig Maxwell-Keys
Most recent meeting: Saturday, September 24, 2016: Saints 15 Wasps 20 (Aviva Premiership)
Tom’s preview: Any Saints fans wanting to find reasons to be positive about Sunday’s fixture at Wasps would be advised to stear well clear of the pre-match statistics.
They are, put simply, eye-watering, with Wasps having not lost at home in the league since Saracens won at the Ricoh Arena in December, 2015.
In that time, Wasps have won 16 consecutive games, with 12 maximum-point victories.
They have been victorious in their past three matches against Saints, who have lost on all three visits to the Ricoh Arena.
But, as they say - records are there to be broken.
And how Saints need to break all of those this weekend.
Because, now sitting down in seventh, their grasp on even the play-off spot for Champions Cup rugby is growing ever more precarious.
And with games against Saracens, Exeter and Harlequins to finish the season after the trip to Wasps, Jim Mallinder’s men couldn’t have it much tougher.
Their defeat to Leicester last time out was a hammer blow to their top-four hopes.
And they are now in a desperate pursuit of points in the bid to be playing top tier European rugby next season.
Against Tigers, they saw their scrum shredded as they failed to find favour with referee Greg Garner.
They will have to get on the right side of this weekend’s man in the middle, Craig Maxwell-Keys, if they are to have any hope of swatting Wasps.
Because if the home side get any sort of parity up front, they have the backline capability to run riot.
They have scored tries for fun this season, racking up a gargantuan 577 points from 18 league games so far.
But they were beaten by Leinster in Dublin last weekend, showing they can be defeated.
Saints will have to step up several notches if they are to emulate the Irish success, but they have the players to do it.
In the likes of Tom Wood, Louis Picamoles and George North, they have men who can be considered among the league’s elite.
But now they need to click in every department.
In attack, they have shown real signs of promise of late.
But in defence, they have been alarmingly porous, shipping more than 30 points in four of their past five matches.
That has undone their good work going forward and they will have to produce they sort of all-round display they delivered at Sale last month to have hope here.
It is a tough ask, but Saints now need to deliver their best displays of the season when it really matters.
It is something top teams have a knack of doing, and Saints must show they can mix it with the best otherwise they will end up languishing among the rest.
Tom’s prediction: Wasps 32 Saints 25