Leinster v Northampton Saints: Tom Vickers' big match preview

Fixture: Leinster v Northampton Saints

Friday, 13th December 2019, 12:32 pm
Jamie Elliott sealed Saints' stunning win in Dublin in 2013 with a last-gasp breakaway try

Competition: Champions Cup Pool 1 (game four)

Venue: Aviva Stadium, Dublin

Date and kick-off time: Saturday, December 2014, 2019, 5.15pm

Television coverage: BT Sport 2 and Channel 4

Weather forecast: 4c, chance of showers

Leinster: Larmour; D Kearney, Ringrose, Henshaw, Lowe; R Byrne, McGrath; Healy, Tracy, Furlong; Fardy (c), Ryan; Ruddock, van der Flier, Doris.

Replacements: B Byrne, E Byrne, Porter, Toner, Deegan, Gibson-Park, Frawley, R Kearney.

Saints: Tuala; Sleightholme, Proctor, Symons, Naiyaravoro; Biggar, Tupai; van Wyk, van Vuuren, Hill; Ratuniyarawa, Coles; Wood (c), Gibson, Ludlam.

Replacements: Matavesi, Waller, Painter, Bean, Tonks, J Mitchell, Grayson, Dingwall.

Outs: Saints: Alex Mitchell (knee), Reece Marshall (hamstring), Reuben Bird-Tulloch (hand), Henry Taylor (thumb), Ben Franks (elbow), David Ribbans (back), James Fish (head), Owen Franks (hand), Courtney Lawes (hamstring), Alex Moon (head), Cobus Reinach (knee).

Referee: Dan Jones (Wales)

Most recent meeting: Saturday, December 7, 2019: Saints 16 Leinster 43 (Champions Cup)

Tom's preview: Just as they did six years ago to the day, Saints are travelling to Dublin with hope rather than expectation packed neatly in their suitcases.

They know the size of the task that awaits them at the Aviva Stadium on Saturday evening and the reality is that Leinster are huge favourites to claim yet another Champions Cup win against the black, green and gold.

A look at the statistics doesn't make pretty reading for those of a Northampton persuasion, who will see that, in their past three games against Saints, Leinster have a +101 points difference, winning by at least 27 points on each occasion.

They have won seven of their previous eight Champions Cup games against Saints and won their last 14 home games in Europe's top tier tournament.

But there is one blemish on Leinster's record against Saints: that 18-9 upset at the Aviva back in December 2013.

This Saturday will mark exactly six years since that Dublin miracle, when Jim Mallinder's men came, saw and conquered against all the odds, just a week on from being humbled 40-7 by the same side at Franklin's Gardens.

That result, and the incredible turnaround at Ulster a year earlier, have meant Saints have never been short of hope in Europe.

Their supporters have always been able to look back on those results with such fondness.

And if the Champions Cup signifies anything, it is that you should dare to dream.

Big European weekends don't come around often, and when they do, they are there to be embraced.

That is exactly the approach this much-changed Saints squad will take this week.

Because win or lose, they will retain the belief they have built up under boss Chris Boyd.

And what better way to test themselves than against Europe's best, the Champions Cup favourites who remain unbeaten this season.

Saints supporters have another big European encounter to look forward to, a far cry from the snow shovelling experience in Timisoara this time last year.

Boyd has brought this team back to the big time, where they made themselves at home under Mallinder several years ago.

Now they have the chance to prove they can write their own history in the most striking way possible.

Few will give them a chance, but that is how Saints sides have always liked it, especially in Europe.

Tom's prediction: Saints are missing so many players this weekend, and this Leinster team is so formidable. It is enjoyable for away fans to dream of a repeat of 2013, but, in reality, this looks too tough an ask for a depleted Saints team. Leinster 28 Saints 10.