Northampton Saints v Munster: Tom Vickers' big match preview

Shane Geraghty shone for Saints against Munster in 2009Shane Geraghty shone for Saints against Munster in 2009
Shane Geraghty shone for Saints against Munster in 2009
Fixture: Northampton Saints v Munster

Competition: Heineken Champions Cup (pool stages)

Venue: cinch Stadium at Franklin's Gardens

Date and kick-off time: Sunday, December 18, 2022, 1pm

Weather forecast: 4c, light rain

Live television coverage: BT Sport

Referee: Ludovic Cayre (France)

Saints: Furbank; Ramm, Proctor, Hutchinson, Freeman; F Smith, Mitchell; A Waller, S Matavesi, Painter; Salakaia-Loto, Ribbans; Lawes, Ludlam (c), Augustus.Replacements: Haywood, Iyogun, Petch, Moon, Scott-Young, Hinkley, Braley, Dingwall.

Munster: Haley; Nash, Frisch, Crowley, Earls; Carbery, Murray; Loughman, N Scannell, Ryan; Kleyn, Beirne; O’Donoghue, O’Mahony (c), Coombes.Replacements: Barron, Kilcoyne, Salanoa, Hodnett, Kendellen, Casey, R Scannell, Daly.

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Not considered for Saints selection: Alex Coles, Matthew Arden, James Fish, Sam Graham, James Grayson, Paul Hill, Ollie Sleightholme

Most recent meeting: January 21, 2012: Saints 36 Munster 51 (Champions Cup)

Tom's preview: At the Gardens this week, Saints have been trying to summon up former glories to inspire fresh ones.

The players were shown clips of the magical win against Munster back in October 2009, when Jim Mallinder's side, which contained current boss Phil Dowson, delivered a memorable home success.

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Inspired by fly-half Shane Geraghty, the black, green and gold defeated the team from Thomond Park 31-27 under the Gardens lights.

It was an incredible night that lived long in the memory.

And as Saints bid to deliver a similarly superb showing on Sunday afternoon, that performance will have been used as a template for the current crop of players.

And how Dowson would love to see his side hit those heights, especially after they failed to get off the ground at Stade Marcel Deflandre last Saturday evening.

Saints were eviscerated during the first half as La Rochelle ran riot, racking up an eye-watering 32 points without reply.

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The Heineken Champions Cup opener eventually ended in 46-12 defeat for Dowson's side, who did at least respond with a couple of tries in the final 10 minutes.

But it was too little, too late as their European bid got off to the slowest possible start.

Other Gallagher Premiership sides showed that English teams, despite their financial constraits, could compete at the top table.

Sale Sharks nilled Ulster, Leicester Tigers won at Ospreys and Exeter Chiefs and Gloucester passed their French tests as they saw off Castres and Bordeaux respectively.

But Saints still have much to prove in this competition.

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They have not won in it since securing a memorable success at Lyon back in January 2020.

And their recent history in the Champions Cup is galling rather than glorious.

The days of the run to the final back in 2011 and what led up to it, including that victory against Munster in 2009, seem a far too distant memory.

And if they are to do anything in this season's competition, they have to win on Sunday.

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But with Munster always ready to pack a punch in the Champions Cup, nothing will come easy.

A resilience that hasn't been shown in recent weeks will really be required.

And what a shot in the arm it would be for Saints and their supporters should they show it.

They have been far too porous this season, conceding penalties and points with alarming regularity.

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And with so many more tough games on the horizon, they know they really have to set the record straight in their final game of 2022.

It is possible, but is it plausible that they will do it?

We're about to find out.

Tom's prediction: With so much talk about their defence and lack of discipline, Saints will probably work with something of a siege mentality this week. They know they are under pressure to get results, and I fancy them to come out fighting here. Saints 21 Munster 17.