London Irish v Northampton Saints: Tom Vickers' big match preview

Fixture: London Irish v Northampton Saints

By Tom Vickers
Friday, 25th March 2022, 12:14 pm
Updated Friday, 25th March 2022, 12:16 pm

Competition: Gallagher Premiership

Venue: Brentford Community Stadium, Brentford

Date and kick-off time: Saturday, March 26, 2022, 3pm

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Dan Biggar and Courtney Lawes start for Saints against London Irish

Weather forecast: 17c, sunny

Live television coverage: PRTV Live

Referee: Wayne Barnes

London Irish: Stokes; Rowe, Cinti, van Rensburg, Hassell-Collins; Jackson, Phipps; Goodrick-Clarke, Creevy, Hoskins; Munga, Simmons; Rogerson (c), Gonzalez, O’Brien.

Replacements: Cornish, Gigena, Green, Nott, Pearson, Cracknell, White, Parton.

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

Replacements: Haywood, Auterac, Carey, Moon, Coles, James, Litchfield, Freeman.

Not considered for Saints selection: Matthew Arden, Emeka Atuanya, Piers Francis, Teimana Harrison, Oisín Heffernan, Emmanuel Iyogun, Taqele Naiyaravoro, Ollie Newman, Ehren Painter, Matt Proctor, Ollie Sleightholme, Kayde Sylvester, Karl Wilkins, Tom Wood.

Most recent meeting: Saturday, November 13, 2021: Saints 26 London Irish 36 (Premiership Rugby Cup pool stages)

Tom's preview: The talk at Saints this week has been about 'spoiling the party' and 'raining on the parade' as they get set to travel to the Brentford Community Stadium on Saturday afternoon.

Chris Boyd's side know they will have to hit their highest intensity levels if they are to ruin the big St Patrick's Day celebration for London Irish.

But they will need more than just intensity if they are to get the win they so desperately want - and need - this weekend.

Because London Irish have become a formidable side in recent times, and they will feel they should have won at cinch Stadium at Franklin's Gardens back in October.

On that day, Saints just about edged to a 23-21 victory in difficult conditions, showing what the home fans hoped was a new resilience that could earn them wins in the tricky circumstances.

Saints have since shown an inability to do that, losing tight games to the likes of Sale Sharks, Exeter Chiefs and Gloucester.

And that has really given them a mountain to climb in their bid to make the Gallagher Premiership play-offs.

The black, green and gold did beat Wasps in their most recent league outing, but their top-four hopes continue to hang by a thread.

And defeat at Irish on Saturday would pretty much extinguish them.

On that note, Irish would dearly love to deal that blow this weekend.

They have the chance to knock a play-off rival out of the race in front of a packed house on home soil.

It will be a special day for them, made all the more celebratory if they can see off Saints.

But Boyd's side, if they want to really show they can keep their hopes intact, will have to deliver one of, if not their best, showing of the season so far.

That is their mission, no matter how difficult it may seem.

They can welcome some experienced players back and the squad is looking a bit more healthy than it was a couple of weeks ago.

And they will need every ounce of talent and know-how to get over the line against a London Irish side who have lost just one of their past six matches in all competitions.

It is sure to be some occasion and some atmosphere.

Now Saints need to make sure it is they who are the ones who savour it and come out on the right side of the result this weekend.

Tom's prediction: This is going to be such a tough game for Saints, but they have some important players back and they have enough quality to get the job done. Whether they can, it remains to be seen. But I'm backing them here. A late Dan Biggar kick to seal it. London Irish 33 Saints 35.