Newcastle Falcons v Northampton Saints: Tom Vickers' big match preview

Newcastle won at Franklin's Gardens back in December
Newcastle won at Franklin's Gardens back in December

Fixture: Newcastle Falcons v Northampton Saints

Competition: Gallagher Premiership (round 20)

Venue: Kingston Park, Newcastle

Date and kick-off time: Friday, April 26, 2019, 7.45pm

Television coverage: None

Referee: Luke Pearce (89th Premiership game)

Newcastle Falcons: Hammersley; Goneva, Harris, Matavesi, Sinoti; Flood (cc), Takulua; Mulipola, McGuigan, Ah You; Green, Davidson; Chick; Wilson (cc), Nagusa.

Replacements: Cooper, Lockwood, Davison, Robinson, Graham, Young, Swiel, Williams.

Saints: Tuala; Collins, Hutchinson, Burrell, Naiyaravoro; Biggar, Reinach; van Wyk, Marshall, Hill; Ratuniyarawa, Lawes; Gibson, Wood, Harrison (c).

Replacements: Ma'asi, Waller, Franks, Coles, Onojaife, Mitchell, Grayson, Kellaway.

Outs: Saints: Andy Symons (knee), Harry Mallinder (knee), Mikey Haywood (knee), Dylan Hartley (knee), Paddy Ryan (knee), Fraser Dingwall (ankle), David Ribbans (ankle), James Fish (concussion), Heinrich Brüssow (concussion), Alex Moon (ankle), James Craig (hamstring), Lewis Ludlam (shoulder), Nafi Tuitavake (elbow), Ollie Sleightholme (ankle), Piers Francis (knee), George Furbank (concussion).

Most recent meeting: Saturday, February 9, 2019: Saints 59 Newcastle Falcons 33 (Premiership Rugby Cup semi-final)

Tom's preview: You can already feel the tension at Kingston Park, and the game has yet to begin.

That is because both Newcastle and Saints are so desperate for a win to keep their ambitions alive.

The Falcons' need may be seen as more pressing because should they suffer defeat on Friday night, they really will appear doomed.

They are currently seven points adrift at the bottom of the table and there are just three games to go.

With Worcester looking good at home, the Warriors will fancy their chances of beating Gloucester at Sixways on Sunday to secure Premiership status for another season should Falcons lose.

And that means Newcastle really must win against Saints this week.

But Chris Boyd will expect exactly the same desire from his side when they head north.

They are just four points behind Harlequins, who occupy the final play-off place, and the belief is there that this can still be a very special season for Saints.

They have shown an ability to upset the odds over the years, and they still believe they can make the play-offs and go on to glory.

It may seem a dream as distant as the journey to Kingston Park, but it is still very much possible.

However, it will only stay that way if Saints continue their recent good run on the road, which has seen them beat Leicester and Harlequins in recent times.

They have the ability, but do they have the same steely desire that Newcastle will with relegation looming?

That will be the big question.

Because if Saints can match the Falcons' desire, they have enough ability and belief to win the match.

It would be some victory, especially against a side who they have lost to in the past six league meetings between the clubs.

But there is no better time for them to end that barren run than at Kingston Park on a fraught Friday night.

Tom's prediction: Newcastle 18 Saints 22