London Irish v Northampton Saints: Tom Vickers' match preview

Saints will look to make it three successive wins this weekend (picture: Kirsty Edmonds)
Saints will look to make it three successive wins this weekend (picture: Kirsty Edmonds)

Fixture: London Irish v Northampton Saints

Competition: Aviva Premiership - round four

Venue: Madejski Stadium, Reading

Date: Sunday, September 24, 2017

Kick-off time: 3pm

Television coverage: None

London Irish: Bell; Lewington, Tikoirotuma, Williams, Nalaga; Marshall, McKibbin; Franks (c), Porecki, Du Plessis; van der Merwe, De Chaves; McNally, Gilsenan, Cowan.

Replacements: Paice, Elrington, Hoskins, Paulo, Schatz, Steele, Tonks, Ojo.

Saints: Tuala; North, Horne, Burrell, Collins; Mallinder, Groom; Waller, Haywood, Hill; Paterson, Ribbans; Lawes (c), Gibson, Dickinson.

Replacements: Marshall, Ma'afu, Brookes, Day, Ludlam, Reinach, Grayson, Foden.

Outs: Saints: Piers Francis (jaw), Stephen Myler (knee), Mitch Eadie (ankle), Tom Wood (shoulder), Dylan Hartley (hand), Teimana Harrison (shoulder)

Referee: Matthew Carley

Most recent meeting: Saturday, February 13, 2016: Saints 35 London Irish 7 (Aviva Premiership)

Tom's preview: On the opening day of the season at Twickenham, Saints and London Irish enjoyed/endured very different experiences.

Saints started their campaign with a chastening London Double Header defeat to Saracens, shipping nine tries in an embarrassing 55-24 evisceration.

Then, in the game that followed not long after the final whistle was blown on that humiliation, London Irish kick-started their return to the top flight in style.

The Exiles earned an eye-catching 39-29 victory against Harlequins.

Saints and London Irish got on the bus out of Twickenham at different times that day, and with very different moods among their playing squads, management teams and fan bases.

But how quickly things have changed.

Jim Mallinder's men have been reborn during the past two weeks, claiming convincing victories against Leicester Tigers and Bath.

It has been a happy homecoming as Saints banished those Twickenham demons, quickly and emphatically.

But for London Irish, life in the top flight has gone a bit flat.

They were beaten 37-7 at Exeter Chiefs before falling to a 36-7 defeat at Sale Sharks.

And now it is the men from the Madejski Stadium who will be hoping home comforts can help them turn the tide.

But for Saints, this is a big chance.

A big chance to add to Irish's agony and to make it three successive victories.

That would represent a very strong start to the season and keep the momentum going heading back to the Gardens for the clash with Harlequins six days later.

Saints feel they have something to prove on the road following that Saracens defeat.

They do not want to make it two defeats from as many away matches this season.

And they certainly don't want to suffer a repeat of the last time they visited the Madejski Stadium, when Irish edged to a 25-23 victory in February, 2016.

During that season, Saints slipped up away from home against struggling sides.

Irish, Worcester and Newcastle all narrowly beat Jim Mallinder's men in the 2015/16 campaign.

It proved their undoing in pursuit of the top four.

They must put these teams away if they are to achieve their aims this time round.

And if they and Irish reproduce the performance levels of the past two weeks, Saints will get the win they want on Sunday.

Tom's prediction: London Irish 20 Saints 28