Bath v Northampton Saints: Tom Vickers' match preview

David Ribbans scored twice against Bath back in September (picture: Kirsty Edmonds)
David Ribbans scored twice against Bath back in September (picture: Kirsty Edmonds)

Fixture: Bath v Northampton Saints

Competition: Aviva Premiership

Date and kick-off time: Friday, February 9, 7.45pm

Venue: The Rec, Bath

Television coverage: BT Sport 1

Referee: Tom Foley (47th Premiership game)

Bath; Wilson; Banahan, Hurrell, Tapuai, Brew; Burns, Fotuali'i; Noguera, Dunn, Lahiff; Stooke, Ewels; Garvey (c), Grant, Phillips.

Replacements: Batty, Auterac, Thomas, Charteris, Bayliss, Cook, Lewis, Atkins.

Saints: Tuala; Pisi, Horne, Stephenson, Foden; Francis, Reinach; Ma'afu, Haywood, Brookes; Ratuniyarawa, Day (c); Wood, Gibson, Harrison.

Replacements: Marshall, van Wyk, Ford-Robinson, Ribbans, Nutley, Groom, Mallinder, Tuitavake.

Outs: Saints: Alex Waller (arm), Luther Burrell (calf), James Craig (knee)

Most recent meeting: Friday, September 15, 2017: Saints 24 Bath 6 (Aviva Premiership)

Tom's preview: Some may see this Friday's game at The Rec as a dress rehearsal for the Anglo-Welsh Cup clash at the same ground in four weeks' time.

But that certainly won't be how Bath and Saints view it, with Aviva Premiership aspirations still firmly at the top of the list for both clubs this season.

Winning silverware in a cup competition would of course be welcome, but finishing in the top six, or possibly even top four, will still be viewed as the primary target.

Bath and Saints will be desperate to bring Champions Cup rugby to their respective grounds, despite enduring some difficulties in the top tier competition during this campaign.

They will both believe that they belong at the top table in Europe.

But both still have work to do to prove that is the case.

Tenth-placed Saints have plenty of ground to make up, having won just five of their 13 league matches so far.

While Bath are much in a much better position, sitting five places and 11 points ahead of this week's opposition.

But if Saints can secure they win, they will close that gap significantly.

And they will bring themselves back to a more respectable distance from the top six.

With a home game against London Irish lying in wait next week, they know these two weeks represent a real chance to maintain momentum created by four wins from five matches.

But they have not won away in the league since September, so there is certainly a record that needs to be set straight.

They did batter Bath in the reverse fixture, barely allowing the west country side a sniff at Franklin's Gardens.

But the blue and whites are a different proposition at The Rec and, despite a lengthy absences list, they are still able to name a very strong side this week.

Former Saints stars Kahn Fotuali'i and James WIlson both start, and they will be desperate to get one over on some of their friends.

But Saints have to shut down those creative influences and get the win they want.

Not only would would that give them a slight psychological edge ahead of that semi-final next month, but, more importantly, it would start to close that sizeable gap to the top six.

Tom's prediction: Bath 18 Saints 23