Northampton Saints v Bath: Tom Vickers' match preview

Saints beat Leicester Tigers at the Gardens last Saturday (picture: Sharon Lucey)
Saints beat Leicester Tigers at the Gardens last Saturday (picture: Sharon Lucey)

Fixture: Northampton Saints v Bath

Competition: Aviva Premiership - round three

Venue: Franklin's Gardens, Northampton

Date: Friday, September 15, 2017

Kick-off time: 7.45pm

Television coverage: BT Sport 2

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

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

Bath: Watson; Rokoduguni, Joseph, Tapuai, Banahan; Priestland, Fotuali'i; Obano, Dunn, Perenise; Ewels, Stooke; Garvey (c), Underhill, Faletau.

Replacements: Walker, Auterac, Andrews, Phillips, Grant, Allinson, Burns, Clark.

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

Referee: Tom Foley (39th Premiership game)

Most recent meeting: Friday, February 10, 2017: Bath 32 Saints 30 (Aviva Premiership)

Tom's preview: "We can't afford to have to come out of a loss to win a game - we struggled with that last year, winning one then losing one."

Those are the words of Jamie Gibson, who has called on Saints to get some consistency in their game when they face Bath on Friday night.

Over the years, Jim Mallinder's men have become masters of producing a big reaction to a big defeat.

Ulster and Leinster have been among those who have felt the wrath of wounded Saints.

But although that ability to come back so impressively is creditable, Saints know it shouldn't take a painful defeat to propel them to victory.

And against Bath on Friday night, the challenge is to find the same motivation that pushed them past Leicester Tigers last Saturday.

It was a dominant display in the east midlands derby, with Saints smothering their local rivals to end a seven-match losing streak against Tigers.

Mallinder's men, who had suffered a sobering defeat to Saracens just seven days earlier, were transformed into a fearsome beast.

They scored three times and could have had more as they rubbed salt in the wounds of Tigers, who had also lost their opening-day game, to Bath.

And now Saints need more of the same.

Bath will be in bullish mood, having already beaten Leicester and Saracens this season.

It has been a hugely impressive start from Todd Blackadder's men, who will look to make it a magic three at Franklin's Gardens on Friday night.

They will have noted Saints' scrum troubles against Tigers and seen ways to exploit Mallinder's men.

But if Saints can show the same commitment and skill that they bought to the table against Leicester, they have every chance to ending Bath's 100 per cent start.

It is a fascinating fixture and one that can really set Saints up for the next few weeks if they win it.

Trips to London Irish and Gloucester will sandwich a home game against Harlequins after the Bath encounter.

And those are games that Saints should be confident about.

But that confidence will only come if they can get the job done on Friday night.

Bath showed their ability to back up the brilliant win at Welford Road with an equally superb one against Saracens.

And now it is Saints' time to show they can claim back-to-back successes by slaying Blackadder's boys at the Gardens.

Tom's prediction: Saints 23 Bath 20