Tom Vickers’ Northampton Saints versus Treviso preview

BACK ON THE TRY TRAIL - winger George North is back in the Saints starting line-up
BACK ON THE TRY TRAIL - winger George North is back in the Saints starting line-up

Fixture: Northampton Saints v Treviso (Champions Cup - match four)

Date/kick-off time: Saturday, December 13, 3.15pm

Venue: Franklin’s Gardens

Weather forecast: Clear, 4C

Saints: Wilson; K Pisi, G Pisi, Stephenson, North; Myler, Fotuali’i; E Waller, Hartley (c), Ma’afu; Dickinson, Lawes; Clark, Wood, Dowson.

Replacements: Haywood, A Waller, Denman, C Day, Manoa, L Dickson, Burrell, Foden.

Treviso: Hayward; Ragusi, Morisi, Bacchin, Nitoglia; Carlisle, Gori; Zanusso, Anae, Muccignat; Pavanello, Fuser; Swanepoel, Minto, Luamanu.

Replacements: Kudin, Novak, Acosta, Vallejos, Lazzaroni, Favaro, Trevisan, Ambrosini.

Outs: Saints: Corbisiero (shoulder), Fisher (toe), Collins (hamstring)

Most recent meeting: Saturday, December 6, 2014: Treviso 15 Saints 38

Tom’s preview: Saints might have been comfortable winners at Stadio di Monigo last weekend, but Luther Burrell’s post-match interview was tinged with a little regret.

It was almost as his pride had been hit and, on a day when he celebrated his 27th birthday with a try and a sizeable success, he provided an interesting evaluation.

The England centre said he and his team-mates were irked by conceding two second-half tries and urged them to shut Treviso out at Franklin’s Gardens this weekend.

It was a symbol of the high standards that Saints set themselves, that they are determined to nil a team in Europe’s top tier tournament.

This is not, after all, a competition in which eviscerations are expected on a regular basis, as they are in the Amlin Challenge Cup.

It is one where every win requires plenty of blood and sweat, even against a Treviso team who remain winless this season.

Ask Leinster what the Italians can do, after they drew 24-24 at Stadio di Monigo in the PRO12 last month.

And ask Racing Metro, who had their noses bloodied in Italy, failing to take a bonus point from their battle.

But Saints are only worried about what they can do - and last weekend once again showed that what they can do is pretty impressive.

That they pocketed the full five points means they are now locked on 10 points with Racing at the top of Pool 5.

And that is a nice position to be in, with the French side still to come to Franklin’s Gardens in January.

Burrell’s belief shows that Saints expect more big things against Treviso this weekend - and it is right to expect them to get another maximum haul.

They were comfortable winners in the forward battle last Saturday and there are plenty of fresh and firing internationals back in the mix for this encounter.

So there is every chance Burrell will be close to getting his wish.

But it is the other end of the pitch that will be most important, with a Saints side who have scored 13 tries during their past two games needing at least four again this week.

A quarter-final place is a necessity this season for a side who have not made it to that stage since 2011.

They will have expected to progress this time round, and little has changed during the first three games, despite the opening-day defeat in France.

There is a burning desire, as depicted by Burrell last weekend, to be flawless.

And with Leicester and Harlequins lying in wait later this month, that is an important attitude to have.

Tom’s prediction: Saints 34 Treviso 6