Tom Vickers’ Northampton Saints v Racing 92 preview

Saints were beaten by Racing at Franklin's Gardens back in January (picture: Sharon Lucey)
Saints were beaten by Racing at Franklin's Gardens back in January (picture: Sharon Lucey)

Fixture: Northampton Saints v Racing 92 (Champions Cup round four)

Date/kick-off time: Friday, December 18 (7.45pm)

Weather forecast: 12C, cloudy

Referee: Nigel Owens (Wales)

Saints: Foden; Tuala, G Pisi, Burrell, North; Myler, Dickson (c); A Waller, Haywood, Brookes; Lawes, Matfield; Gibson, Harrison, Dickinson.

Replacements: Williams, E Waller, Hill, Day, Paterson, Fotuali’i, Hanrahan, Elliott.

Outs: Saints: Corbisiero (knee), Hartley (concussion), Wood (shoulder), Clark (shoulder).

Most recent meeting: Saturday, December 12: Racing 33 Saints 3 (Champions Cup)

Tom’s preview: Here we go again, then.

Another December, another revenge mission for Saints.

And as they did so spectacularly in 2012 and 2013, Jim Mallinder’s avengers will hope to turn the tables on a hotly-tipped team in the Champions Cup.

Ulster and Leinster have thrashed Saints only to feel the full force of the men from Franklin’s Gardens on the following weekend.

And now those of a Northampton persuasion will desperately hope that Racing become the latest to sample their wrath.

There is something about a quick turnaround that has brought the best out of Saints in years gone by.

Most likely, it is that memories are fresh from the previous week’s setback.

When they faced Racing at home in last season’s competition, three months had elapsed since the 20-11 defeat in France.

There was hurt after that October loss, with Saints feeling they should have at least claimed a losing bonus point at Stade Yves-du-Manoir.

And had George Pisi not pulled his hamstring on the way to the try line, it could have even been more.

But they came home with nothing and then had to wait to meet Racing again, going on to suffer a chastening 32-8 defeat on home soil.

This time, though, the wait is a short one.

And the feeling of anguish is amplified following last weekend’s sobering 33-3 defeat.

Saints certainly had their moments in that game and can point to a couple of things that didn’t go their way.

But, on the whole, Racing ran out deserving winners and Saints know they must improve massively if they are to get their own back on their own turf this week.

The cash-rich French club can boast an array of top players, as shown by the fact the likes of Martin Castrogiovanni and Remi Tales didn’t even feature last Saturday.

And that means they are fresh as they can rest and rotate whenever they like.

Saints don’t have that luxury, but they do have the fire in their bellies.

And they will need to use that to drive them on this weekend as they bid to bounce back against the team with the best defence in the competition so far.

Racing are not your typical French outfit.

They do not win comfortably at home and then fade away.

They are equally adept at someone else’s stronghold as they are playing at their own, as they showed against Saints last season.

But this Friday, Mallinder’s men will hope they are the ones who are able to repeat history in a positive manner.

Tom’s prediction: Saints 16 Racing 23