Gloucester v Saints: Tom Vickers' big match preview

Fixture: Gloucester v Northampton Saints

By Tom Vickers
Friday, 15th April 2022, 12:15 pm
Tom Wood and Phil Dowson lifted the Challenge Cup for Saints back in 2014
Tom Wood and Phil Dowson lifted the Challenge Cup for Saints back in 2014

Competition: European Challenge Cup (round of 16)

Venue: Kingsholm Stadium, Gloucester

Date and kick-off time: Saturday, April 16, 2022, 8pm

Weather forecast: 15c, cloudy

Live television coverage: Match pass available on the EPRC websiteReferee: Sam Grove-White

Gloucester: Carreras; Rees-Zammit, Harris, Atkinson, Thorley; Hastings, Chapman; Rapava-Ruskin, Socino, Balmain; Clarke, Alemanno; Reid, Ludlow (c), Ackermann.

Replacements: Singleton, Elrington, Ford-Robinson, Craig, Morgan, Twelvetrees, Seabrook.

Saints: Furbank; Freeman, Proctor, Hutchinson, Collins; Biggar, Mitchell; Waller, Matavesi, Hill; Ribbans, Ratuniyarawa; Lawes, Ludlam (c), Augustus.

Replacements: Haywood, Hobbs-Awoyemi, Carey, Coles, Harrison, James, Francis, Nansen.

Not considered for Saints selection: Matthew Arden, Nick Auterac, Fraser Dingwall, Ollie Newman, Ehren Painter, Courtnall Skosan, Kayde Sylvester, Karl Wilkins, Tom Wood.

Most recent meeting: Saturday, March 5, 2022: Gloucester 35 Saints 30 (Gallagher Premiership)

Tom's preview: Little more than a month on from the day when it felt like their season had ended, Saints make their way back to Kingsholm.

And it's fair to say that Chris Boyd's side are more than reinvigorated by recent results.

Because after four successive defeats, they have bagged five successive wins.

That has propelled them back into the Gallagher Premiership play-off picture, and they are now just four points off fourth with a game in hand over the side above them, Exeter Chiefs.

Wins against Wasps, London Irish and Bristol Bears have breathed new life into a campaign that seemed to be stuttering after late losses against Sale, Exeter and Gloucester.

But Saints have showed that they now have the belief to bounce back from sizeable setbacks under Boyd.

And they will need every ounce of that confidence in the coming weeks as they look to stay on track not only in the league but in Europe, too.

It will be far from easy with every game seemingly must-win against teams who face the same fate.

Nothing will be earned without a fight, but Saints have shown they can get stuck in over recent times.

And how sweet it would be for them if they can book their place in the Challenge Cup quarter-finals this weekend.

Make no mistake, the Premiership remains the priority.

But that doesn't mean Saints won't be going all out to secure silverware on two fronts this season.

And one competition could actually help another.

Because if Saints don't go through on Saturday night, they face a real shortage of action in the month of May.

The way the season is scheduled, the Challenge Cup quarter-finals, semi-finals and final all take place next month.

That means if Saints are not involved, they would have a single league game, at Saracens on May 21, to look forward to.

And they know that could play havoc with their momentum.

It could be argued that it will keep them fresh for league matters.

But as the superb black, green and gold side of 2013/14 showed, there is no substitute for regular matches and regular wins.

Back then, Saints won big games week after week.

And this group of players now have the chance to show they can do the same.

They didn't manage to prevail at Gloucester last month, despite dominating the first 50 minutes of that match.

But much has changed since then, not least Saints' ability to get over the line, and they have to hammer home that progress here.

Tom's prediction: This should be another entertaining tussle between two teams who like to play. Gloucester have named a hugely impressive side, but Saints have some momentum after their recent successes and it's time for them to exact some revenge for the heartbreak they suffered at Kingsholm last month. Gloucester 31 Saints 33.