Wasps v Northampton Saints: Tom Vickers' big match preview

Fixture: Wasps v Northampton Saints

Friday, 5th February 2021, 12:15 pm
Alex Mitchell scored for Saints against Wasps back in August but it would be the Coventry-based outfit who went on to reach the Premiership final last season

Competition: Gallagher Premiership (round eight)

Venue: Ricoh Arena, Coventry

Date and kick-off time: Saturday, February 6, 1pm

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Weather forecast: Showers, 6c

Live television coverage: BT Sport 2

Referee: Adam Leal

Wasps: Miller; Kibirige, Fekitoa, Gopperth, Minozzi; Atkinson, Wolstenholme; Harris, Cruse, Brookes; Cardall, Gaskell; Shields (c), Oghre, T Willis.

Replacements: Taylor, McIntyre, Toomaga-Allen, Vukasinovic, Morris, Vellacott, Umaga, Le Bourgeois.

Saints: Freeman; Sleightholme, Hutchinson, Francis, Naiyaravoro; Grayson, Mitchell; Waller (cc), Matavesi, Hill; Ribbans, Moon; Isiekwe, Ludlam (cc), Adendorff.

Replacements: Haywood, van Wyk, Franks, Coles, Wood, James, Dingwall, Tuala.

Outs: Saints: Courtney Lawes, Dan Biggar (both international duty), Matt Proctor (knee), Api Ratuniyarawa (calf), George Furbank (concussion), Teimana Harrison (hand), Danny Hobbs-Awoyemi (Achilles), Manny Iyogun (ankle), Kayde Sylvester (Achilles).

Most recent meeting: Sunday, August 16, 2020: Saints 21 Wasps 34 (Gallagher Premiership)

Tom's preview: One school of thought this week is that Saints could do a lot worse than copy Harlequins.

After all, the men from the Twickenham Stoop marched to Coventry last weekend and secured a superb six-try success against Wasps.

But on a broader basis, the team Saints should actually be hoping to follow in the footsteps of is their hosts.

Not in terms of last weekend's performance, of course.

But the black, green and gold can draw plenty of inspiration for what Wasps have achieved during the past 12 months.

Because last January, when Saints won at the Ricoh Arena thanks to a late Taqele Naiyaravoro try, Wasps looked down and out.

They were struggling for any sort of form, while Chris Boyd's side were flying.

But during the year that followed, the two clubs went in very different directions.

While Saints dropped out of the Gallagher Premiership top two and eventually finished a lowly eighth, Wasps stormed into the grand final.

With Lee Blackett having worked miracles after taking over from Dai Young last February, Wasps pushed Exeter Chiefs all the way before eventually losing in the Twickenham showpiece.

And they haven't been bad this season either, with the exception of last weekend's showing when they were well beaten by a Quins team who dished out a similar demolition at the Gardens back in November.

What Wasps have shown is that no matter how badly you think your season is going, if there is still time to turn it around, it can be done.

And with Saints having won their past two matches, both with bonus points, something that became a hallmark of Wasps' fantastic run, hopes are starting to rise in Northampton.

Sport is so much about momentum and confidence, as Wasps showed during the second half of last season.

And Saints actually have far more games left to make their march towards silverware this season.

It felt far fetched to think in those terms back in December, when Saints suffered a 12th successive defeat.

But after beating Worcester Warriors on Boxing Day, a little of that old Saints swagger is back.

Rory Hutchinson has returned to the front of the picture, pulling the strings for his side.

Taqele Naiyaravoro finally ended a 19-game try drought last weekend, scoring for the first time since that win at Wasps on January 5 last year.

The forwards are stepping things up in the set piece, putting teams under pressure.

And with just two players on Six Nations duty, this has to be Saints' time to shine.

They have a platform to build on ahead of week in, week out Premiership action in the coming months.

And as this weekend's opponents have shown, when that confidence starts to creep back into your squad, almost anything is possible.

Tom's prediction: Wasps have a lot of key men missing and this should be a real opportunity for Saints to take advantage. Chris Boyd's side now have a bit of momentum and I expect that to continue in Coventry this weekend. Wasps 18 Saints 23.