Northampton Saints v Harlequins: Big match preview

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Fixture: Northampton Saints v Harlequins

Competition: Gallagher Premiership (round seven)

Venue: cinch Stadium at Franklin’s Gardens, Northampton

Date and kick-off time: Friday, November 24, 2023, 7.45pm

James Ramm scored for Saints when they beat Harlequins on New Year's Day (photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)James Ramm scored for Saints when they beat Harlequins on New Year's Day (photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)
James Ramm scored for Saints when they beat Harlequins on New Year's Day (photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

Weather forecast: 3c, clear

Live television coverage: TNT Sports

Referee: Sara Cox

Assistant referees: Anthony Woodthorpe and Andrew Jackson

No.4: Ryan Collier

TMO: Ian Tempest

Saints: Hendy; Sleightholme, Freeman, Dingwall, Ramm; Furbank, Mitchell; E Waller, S Matavesi, Davison; Munga, Coles; Lawes, Pearson, Ludlam (c).

Replacements: Cruse, A Waller, Millar Mills, Lockett, Scott-Young, James, Savala, Litchfield.

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Harlequins: Green; Murley, Joseph, Esterhuizen, Lynagh; Smith, Care; Baxter, Walker, Lewis; Herbst, Hammond; Lamb, Evans, Dombrandt (c).

Replacements: Jibulu, Garcia Botta, Chawatama, Cunningham-South, Chisholm, Porter, Evans, Beard.

Not considered for Saints selection: Juarno Augustus, Sam Graham, Rory Hutchinson, Emmanuel Iyogun, Curtis Langdon, Burger Odendaal. Robbie Smith.

Most recent meeting: Sunday, January 1, 2023: Saints 46 Harlequins 17 (Gallagher Premiership)

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Saints director of rugby Phil Dowson: “Clearly they're another side who will be very disappointed with how last weekend went. Saracens were on top of them and they'll be wanting to show what they're about so they'll want to come and produce a reaction. It's two sides who have been stung, who will want to make a point. They're clearly a very dangerous side, jam-packed with quality that we know from the international stage and from various Premiership experiences. They are very talented, a good side to watch in how they want to play the game, not only with Danny Care and Marcus Smith at nine and 10 but also with (Andre) Esterhuizen, (Alex) Dombrandt and Dino Lamb carrying, and Will Evans over the ball and in defence is an absolute menace. It's a really good challenge for us and a good one to test our mettle after what happened to us last week.”

Harlequins director of rugby Billy Millard: “We’ve got a massive game against Northampton and we’ve got to get it right. We’ve been so good so far this season, and this (the 38-10 to Saracens last Saturday) is the first time we haven’t had that consistent performance for 80 minutes. It’s a wake-up call, and sometimes you need this early during the season, but it’s definitely a wake-up call. Northampton are always tough and we know we need to be at our best. The boys have worked hard to prepare for this match and we’re looking forward to the challenge.”

Opposition dangerman: This may seem a strange choice given Quins can boast the likes of Alex Dombrandt, Marcus Smith and Andre Esterhuizen, but Will Evans often goes under the radar and he has caused Saints problems in the past. The black, green and gold had a torrid time at the breakdown at Leicester last weekend, and former Tigers flanker Evans specialises in that area.

Tom Vickers’ prediction: After the defeat at Tigers last weekend, Saints badly need to bounce back quickly, but they will have their work cut out against a Harlequins side boasting a hugely exciting backline and some powerhouse forwards. Quins have won two of their three away matches this season and only lost the other by a point so they know how to get the job done on the road. Normally you would say that if Saints get parity up front they will win the game, but that isn’t the case this week as it feels like they will have to dominate in the forwards if they are to overcome Quins. Can they do that? It’s a tough ask. I’ll predict a rare draw. Saints 30 Harlequins 30.