Northampton Saints v Wasps: Tom Vickers' big match preview

Fixture: Northampton Saints v Wasps

Friday, 28th May 2021, 12:49 pm
Updated Friday, 28th May 2021, 12:50 pm
Franklin's Gardens will welcome fans for the first time since December

Competition: Gallagher Premiership (round 20)

Venue: Franklin's Gardens, Northampton

Date and kick-off time: Saturday, May 29, 2021, 4.30pm

Weather: 19c, partly cloudy

Live television coverage: BT Sport 3

Referee: Adam Leal (11th Premiership game)

Saints: Freeman; Sleightholme, Proctor, Dingwall, Naiyaravoro; Biggar, James; Waller (cc), Matavesi, Hill; Ribbans, Ratuniyarawa; Lawes, Ludlam (cc), Wood.

Replacements: Haywood, Iyogun, Painter, Moon, Coles, Tupai, Francis, Hutchinson.

Wasps: Atkinson; Kibirige, Odogwu, Le Bourgeois, Bassett; Umaga, Robson; West, Oghre, Alo; Rowlands, Gaskell; Shields (c), Young, T Willis.

Replacements: Cruse, McIntyre, Toomaga-Allen, Carsall, Vailanu, Vellacott, Gopperth, Miller.

Outs: Saints: George Furbank (calf), Owen Franks (foot), Danny Hobbs-Awoyemi (Achilles), Nick Isiekwe (pectoral), Alex Mitchell (ankle).

Most recent meeting: Saturday, February 6, 2021: Wasps 17 Saints 22 (Gallagher Premiership)

Tom's preview: It isn't quite the homecoming situation Saints supporters would have hoped for - but they will simply be grateful that it is happening at all.

After what has felt like eternity - December was the last time Franklin's Gardens welcomed fans - the black, green and gold faithful can head home.

As many as 4,000 fans will watch their team in action this weekend, at what will hopefully be a sun-drenched stadium.

The only slight disappointment is that Saints' league standing isn't a bit healthier.

Yes, fifth place isn't so bad, but with just 15 points left to play for, Chris Boyd's boys are 11 adrift of fourth.

It could, and perhaps should, be so much better.

Saints have lost to teams in the lower reaches of the league in recent times, with back-to-back defeats to Gloucester and Newcastle Falcons set to cost them dear.

And you get the feeling that had the fans been back one home game sooner, Saints may well still be in the hunt as they surely wouldn't have performed as badly as they did against Gloucester.

Nevertheless, here we are, and what a joy it is for everyone of a Saints persuasion, whether they can be at the Gardens or not on Saturday, to see supporters heading back through the gates.

It has been far too long since that agonising encounter against Bordeaux back in December, when 2,000 fans were allowed in.

It is hoped that this is the start of a return to some form of previous normality, hopefully a sign of things to come.

And for Saints, it should give them the lift they badly need after falling flat so far during May.

They may not be playing for a play-off place, but they are playing to widen the smiles that will already be on their supporters' faces this Saturday afternoon.

Tom's prediction: This should be a very lively encounter in front of 4,000 fans in the Franklin's Gardens sun. I'm backing Saints to edge it. Saints 35 Wasps 32.