Tom Vickers’ Northampton Saints v London Irish preview: Revenge is on the menu

HUMILIATED - the look on Phil Dowson's face says it all as he leaves the field following Saints' defeat at London Irish earlier in the season (Picture: Linda Dawson)
HUMILIATED - the look on Phil Dowson's face says it all as he leaves the field following Saints' defeat at London Irish earlier in the season (Picture: Linda Dawson)
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Sportsmen are often careful not to talk too much about revenge – but it’s difficult for the Saints to steer round that particular subject this weekend.

Coming to Franklin’s Gardens are a London Irish side who eviscerated Jim Mallinder’s men at the Madejski Stadium in October.

The Exiles ran riot to claim a 39-17 win, leaving the Saints players who took to the turf that day red-faced.

Mallinder gave an honest assessment of the situation in his post-match press conference, as he said: “As a group we are all very disappointed. We embarrassed ourselves as a group.

“We were well beaten. There are a lot of good sides in the Premiership and you’ve got to turn up on the day and you’ve got to front up.

“There was no intensity there from us and just about everything we did in that first 60 minutes was awful.

“We talked a lot in the week about what we needed to do and we didn’t do any of that.

“Mentally, if you underestimate any team in the Premiership then you will get turned over. Mentally we weren’t up for the game, and I think that showed.”

It was not a nice experience, and one no one at Saints will want to endure again.

Though, they might not admit it, the players have surely had one eye on the return fixture ever since, eager to set the record straight.

And this weekend they get their chance.

The points are crucial for both sides as Saints aim to enhance their top-four ambitions, while Irish aim to get away from the Premiership’s trap door.

Brian Smith’s side, who currently sit five points clear of bottom markers Sale, will surely survive as they have shown great pedigree in beating the likes of Saints, Wasps and Saracens this season.

But they won’t want to leave it late to secure survival, as who knows what can happen when the nerves start to jangle.

For Saints, it’s all about climbing above Gloucester and Wasps to secure a Premiership play-off semi-final for the fourth successive season.

Sixth-placed Northampton are just one point shy of the two teams above them and a win this weekend is a must.

That is the key point: victory is all that matters.

But, whether they say it publicly or not, the Saints players would also love to prove that revenge is a dish best served cold.