Northampton Saints v Wasps: Tom Vickers' big match preview

Lock Alex Moon will start a Premiership game for the first time on Saturday (picture: Kirsty Edmonds)
Lock Alex Moon will start a Premiership game for the first time on Saturday (picture: Kirsty Edmonds)

Fixture: Northampton Saints v Wasps

Competition: Gallagher Premiership (round seven)

Venue: Franklin's Gardens, Northampton

Date and kick-off time: Saturday, November 17, 2018, 1pm

Television coverage: None

Referee: Matthew O'Grady

Saints: Furbank; Kellaway, Dingwall, Francis, Naiyaravoro; Grayson, Reinach; Waller (c), Fish, Franks; Ribbans, Moon; Wood, Ludlam, Harrison.
Replacements: Marshall, Davis, Garside, Ratuniyarawa, Gibson, Mitchell, Burrell, Sleightholme.

Wasps: Miller; Watson, de Jongh, Lovobalavu, Bassett; Sopoaga, Simpson; B Harris, Cruse, Brookes; Rowlands, Gaskell; Johnson (c), Young, Willis.
Replacements: A Harris, West, Cooper-Woolley, Myall, Morris, Hampson, Searle, Le Bourgeois.

Outs: Saints: Ken Pisi (shoulder), Nafi Tuitavake (neck), Andy Symons (knee), Jamal Ford-Robinson (knee), Harry Mallinder (knee), James Haskell (ankle), Heinrich Brüssow (concussion), James Craig (concussion), Ehren Painter (back), Paul Hill (shoulder), Mike Haywood (knee), Tom Collins (eye), Dylan Hartley, Courtney Lawes, Dan Biggar, Ahsee Tuala (all international duty).

Most recent meeting: Sunday, November 4, 2018: Wasps 14 Saints 15 (Premiership Rugby Cup)

Tom's preview: For a few seasons, Wasps were a team you really didn't want to face during international windows.

They seemed to have struck the perfect balance in their squad, allowing them to select a host of players who were good enough to represent their country but didn't.

The likes of Christian Wade, Danny Cipriani and others would run riot while other clubs were shorn of their main stars.

Even Saracens felt the full force of Dai Young's men as they cruised to a stunning 64-23 success at Allianz Park during the 2016 Six Nations.

On the scoresheet that day were the likes of Nathan Hughes, Dan Robson and Jimmy Gopperth.

But although all three of those players are still at Wasps, none of them will be available this weekend, due to a combination of injury and suspension.

Wade and Cipriani have departed and there are plenty of other issues for Wasps to contend with.

But they can still call on the likes of New Zealand star Lima Sopoaga and former Saints target Josh Bassett among others at Franklin's Gardens this weekend.

However, while it can't be doubted that Wasps will bring a formidable side, they are not quite as imposing as they were a couple of years ago.

They have not won a game since the final weekend of September, with their winless streak now spanning six matches.

And despite Wasps' previous international period prowess, Saints can still be confident of claiming victory this weekend.

They now have a squad that is full of players who are deemed not quite good enough for international duty.

The likes of Tom Wood, Teimana Harrison and Piers Francis all have good credentials but couldn't make it into the England picture.

And though there are a huge amount of injuries to contend with this weekend, Saints are still capable of naming a strong side.

The next few weeks will be intriguing as the pressure to claim points increases with each nail-biting Premiership match.

Squad players will be asked to step up and show why they deserve to be seen as more than just fringe men.

Saints have seen their players do that during recent weeks, and that simply has to continue if they are to beat a wounded Wasps team this weekend.

Tom's prediction: Saints 22 Wasps 18