Tom Vickers’ Bath v Northampton Saints preview

Teimana Harrison starts for the first time this season in Saints' game at Bath (picture: Kirsty Edmonds)
Teimana Harrison starts for the first time this season in Saints' game at Bath (picture: Kirsty Edmonds)

Fixture: Bath v Northampton Saints (round six)

Date/kick-off time: Saturday, December 5 (3.15pm)

Weather forecast: 12C, cloudy

Referee: Craig Maxwell-Keys

Bath: Watson; Rokoduguni, Joseph, Devoto, Banahan; Ford, Cook; Auterac, Webber, Thomas; Attwood, Ellis; Garvey, Louw (c), Houston.

Replacements: Batty, Lahiff, Wilson, Denton, Mercer, Matawalu, Priestland, Homer.

Saints: Foden (c); Elliott, G Pisi, Burrell, North; Hanrahan, Fotuali’i; E Waller, Haywood, Brookes; Paterson, Day; Gibson, Harrison, Dickinson.

Replacements: Marshall, A Waller, Hill, Matfield, Craig, Dickson, Myler, K Pisi.

Outs: Saints: Wilson (arm), Clark (shoulder), Lawes (knee), Hartley (concussion), Williams (concussion), Corbisiero (knee), Wood (unknown).

Most recent meeting: Saturday, February 21: Bath 13 Saints 21 (Aviva Premiership)

Tom’s preview: Saints could just be forgiven for doing a rain dance before Saturday’s game against Bath.

Why? Because should it lash down once again, then you would have to make Jim Mallinder’s men favourites for the match at The Rec.

They have pummelled Scarlets, Glasgow Warriors and Gloucester into submission in inclement weather in recent weeks.

None of those teams could find an answer to Saints’ physicality, with both Warriors and Gloucester having men sin-binned due to their inability to cope at the scrum.

As the rain and wind swirled around, Saints created a maelstrom, drowing their opponents under their dominance.

And Bath, who don’t have the best record of dealing with Northampton forwards, will be desperate to avoid suffering a similar fate this weekend.

But if it rains, they could just become submerged, and their hope will be that it’s a dry start to December.

Because then they can get the dancing feet of George Ford and Niko Matawalu, who starts on the bench, in the game.

Those two men are huge threats if they are allowed to get on the ball.

And Saints will know that if they can’t rely on the weather to trip them up, they must find a way of shackling them themselves.

Now this is not to say Mallinder’s men don’t have threats of their own.

Ben Foden is flying, Luther Burrell is looking sharp and JJ Hanrahan can provide a real spark at fly-half.

George North is surely destined to score soon, while Kahn Fotuali’i is in the same league as Matawalu when it comes to the world’s top scrum-halves.

But there is no denying that Saints’ recent form has been built on their ability to win the arm wrestle up front.

And that has played a major part in the fine record they enjoy against Bath, who have not won against Saints in the Premiership since February 2011.

Eight matches have come and gone, and each time the force from Franklin’s Gardens have found a way to avoid defeat.

Plus, they have inflicted Amlin Challenge Cup heartache of Mike Ford’s team, beating them in the final at Cardiff Arms Park last year.

So there will be real confidence in the Saints camp that, whatever the weather, they can reign at The Rec.

However, as they have not won away in the league since beating Bath back in February, it just might help them even more if the rain makes another appearance.

Tom’s prediction: Bath 18 Saints 15