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

Fixture: Northampton Saints v London Irish

Thursday, 15th April 2021, 12:05 pm
Updated Thursday, 15th April 2021, 12:06 pm
Alex Mitchell started the scoring for Saints against Ulster last weekend, but the hosts were eventually eliminated
Alex Mitchell started the scoring for Saints against Ulster last weekend, but the hosts were eventually eliminated

Competition: Gallagher Premiership (round 16)

Venue: Franklin's Gardens, Northampton

Date and kick-off time: Friday, April 16, 2021, 7.45pm

Weather: 8c, partly cloudy

Live television coverage: BT Sport 1

Referee: Wayne Barnes

Saints: Furbank; Sleightholme, Dingwall, Francis, Collins; Biggar, Mitchell; Auterac, Haywood, Hill; Ribbans, Moon; Isiekwe, Ludlam (c), Harrison.

Replacements: Matavesi, Waller, Painter, Coles, Wood, James, Hutchinson, Tuala.

London Irish: Parton, Loader, Stokes, Hepetema, Hassell-Collins; Jackson, Phipps; Dell, Matu’u, Chawatama; Munga, Simmons; Donnell, Cowan (c), Tuisue.

Replacements: Cornish, Elrington, Hoskins, Nott, Rogerson, Meehan, Cokanasiga, Homer.

Outs: Saints: Tommy Freeman (knee), Taqele Naiyaravoro (concussion), Owen Franks (foot), Danny Hobbs-Awoyemi (Achilles), Courtney Lawes (pectoral), Ryan Olowofela (ankle), Matt Proctor (calf), Api Ratuniyarawa (shoulder), Kayde Sylvester (Achilles)

Most recent meeting: Saturday, August 22, 2020: London Irish 3 Saints 27 (Gallagher Premiership)

Tom's preview: To borrow a phrase predominantly used on Love Island, it's time for Saints to put all of their eggs in one basket.

The Challenge Cup dream was nice while it lasted, but the black, green and gold's relationship with that competition came to an end last Saturday night.

Now they have one target, and one target only: Premiership glory.

It may seem a little out of their league with the likes of Bristol Bears and Exeter Chiefs clear favourites to reach the final come June.

But Saints still have more than a chance of getting into the mix if they can find some consistency in the final seven games of the regular season.

Chris Boyd's side have stopped and started in recent times, struggling to string a run of wins together.

After beating Exeter in February, they lost to Bath.

After beating Sale in March, they lost to Bristol.

And after beating Worcester and the Dragons, they lost to Ulster.

Now they know they can ill afford that kind of one step forward, two back habit.

With Saints currently four points off the top four, you get the feeling they will have to win at least five of their final seven league games - maybe more.

And they have a chance to get off to the perfect start during the next two weeks, when they take on the two teams directly below them in the table.

London Irish and Leicester Tigers both have their qualities - but both are beatable.

And of the league's top four, Saints only have Exeter left to play.

But with the Premiership such an even competition, league standing doesn't allow you to assume you will beat those below you.

Saints know that, and as Boyd said this week, his side must be emotionally ready for every single match they have left to play.

When they get it right, they can beat anyone - as they showed against Exeter at Sandy Park a couple of months ago.

And now it's time to get it right seven times in a row to ensure their Premiership play-off flame keeps burning bright.

Tom's prediction: Saints really need a win this week and I'm backing them to get the job done under the Friday night lights. Saints 25 London Irish 18.