Northampton Saints v Harlequins: Tom Vickers' match preview

Fixture: Northampton Saints v Harlequins

Thursday, 6th September 2018, 1:07 pm
Updated Thursday, 6th September 2018, 1:12 pm
Saints faced Glasgow Warriors under the Friday night lights at Franklin's Gardens last month (picture: Kirsty Edmonds)
Saints faced Glasgow Warriors under the Friday night lights at Franklin's Gardens last month (picture: Kirsty Edmonds)

Competition: Gallagher Premiership (round two)

Venue: Franklin's Gardens, Northampton

Date and kick-off time: Friday, September 7, 2018, 7.45pm

Television coverage: BT Sport 1

Saints: Tuala; Pisi, Burrell, Francis, Collins; Biggar, Reinach; Waller (c), Fish, Franks; Ribbans, Lawes; Haskell, Brüssow, Harrison.

Replacements: Hartley, van Wyk, Painter, Ratuniyarawa, Gibson, Mitchell, Symons, Mallinder.

Harlequins: Morris; Walker, Marchant, Tapuai, Earle; Smith, Care; Marler, Elia, Collier; Symons, Glynn; White, Robshaw (c), Chisholm.

Replacements: Crumpton, Lambert, Swainston, South, Bothma, Mulchrone, Lang, Lasike.

Outs: Saints: Dom Barrow (hamstring), Alex Coles (knee), James Craig (concussion), Paul Hill (shoulder), Rory Hutchinson (knee), Reece Marshall (foot), Toby Trinder (foot), Tom Wood (groin), Charlie Davies (foot).

Referee: Tom Foley

Most recent meeting: Friday, February 2, 2018: Saints 36 Harlequins 10 (Anglo-Welsh Cup)

Tom's preview: Friday night lights at Franklin's Gardens became something to really look forward to over the years.

A night sky and a freedom to consume alcohol knowing the weekend was fully in front of you often brought the best atmosphere the Gardens has to offer.

There were so many fantastic Fridays, with the stand-out occasion being the sensational Premiership play-off semi-final success against Leicester Tigers in May 2014.

When Tom Wood scored, the Gardens roared.

Good things were happening on Northampton soil and the feel-good factor around Friday night fixtures was palpable.

And even at the start of last season, there was a buzz, with Saints slaying Bath 24-6 on a warm Friday night in September.

But as the season went on, supporters were increasingly starting their weekends off on a sour note as their team started to really suffer.

One of the most forgettable moments came on Friday, December 1 when Newcastle Falcons rocked up a spoiled the party, scoring late to secure an agonising 24-22 success.

It almost became accepted that Saints would lose late on and the defeat plunged them into deeper trouble that they did not overcome until the first game of the new year.

They did enjoy some Friday fun against Harlequins on February 2, winning 36-10 at the Gardens to book their place in the semi-finals of the Anglo-Welsh Cup.

But the joy was draining from home matches (and away ones!).

They finished the season on a high at home, beating Worcester Warriors to put a difficult season to bed.

And now there is a renewed buzz, with many fans getting their first look at the Chris Boyd era when Quins come calling this Friday night.

How the players, coaches and fans would love to see the Gardens getting back to its boisterous best this week.

How they would love the men in black, green and gold to shine in the Friday night spotlight.

And if the pre-season win against Glasgow Warriors is anything to go by, this should be an enjoyable occasion.

More than 6,000 fans took in the final pre-season friendly - the first Saints had at home under Boyd - and there was a fresh anticipation around the place.

That will only be amplified in the opening Gallagher Premiership home game of the new season.

And with both Saints and Harlequins keen to play a tidy brand of attacking rugby, it promises to be an enthralling encounter.

Quins got off to a slick start by smashing Sale Sharks 51-23 at The Stoop last week so they will arrive in town on a high.

Saints could also draw positives from their season opener, but the 27-16 defeat at Gloucester was certainly not what they wanted.

They will have been working all week to eradicate the errors and ill discipline that blighted their bid to gather points at Kingsholm.

And if they can get it right this week, the Gardens promises to provide one of those special Friday night atmospheres of years gone by.

Tom's prediction: Saints 25 Harlequins 18