Saracens v Northampton Saints: Tom Vickers' big match preview

Danny Hobbs-Awoyemi played for Saints in pre-season but has not made a competitive appearance since September 2020Danny Hobbs-Awoyemi played for Saints in pre-season but has not made a competitive appearance since September 2020
Danny Hobbs-Awoyemi played for Saints in pre-season but has not made a competitive appearance since September 2020
Fixture: Saracens v Northampton Saints

Competition: Premiership Rugby Cup (pool stages)

Venue: StoneX Stadium, London

Date and kick-off time: Saturday, March 19, 2022, 3pm

Weather forecast: 12c, sunny

Live television coverage: None

Referee: Mike Hudson

Saracens: Obatoyinbo; Harris, Hallett, Morris, Segun; Vunipola, de Haas; Mawi, Pifeleti, Wainwright; McFarland, Hunter-Hill; Stonham, Wray (c), Christie.

Replacements: Lewis, Crean, Jeffries, Nkwocha, Dan, Bryan, Moore, Jackson.

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Saints: Freeman; Gillespie, Francis (c), Matavesi, Tuala; Grayson, James; Auterac, Fish, Garside; Moon, Frost; Tonks, Newman, Irvine.

Replacements: Haywood, Hobbs-Awoyemi, Prowse, Coles, Patten, Tupai, Hendy, F Sleightholme.

Not considered for Saints selection: Matthew Arden, Emeka Atuanya, Jake Garside, Karl Garside, Teimana Harrison, Oisín Heffernan, Lewis Ludlam, Taqele Naiyaravoro, Ehren Painter, Matt Proctor, Ollie Sleightholme, Kayde Sylvester, Karl Wilkins, Tom Wood.

International duty: Dan Biggar (Wal), George Furbank (Eng), Ethan Grayson (Eng U20), Courtney Lawes (Eng), Tom Litchfield (Eng U20), Tom Lockett (Eng U20).

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Most recent meeting: Sunday, January 2, 2022: Saints 6 Saracens 30 (Gallagher Premiership)

Tom's preview: When Saints named their team for this Saturday's game, there was plenty to talk about.

A new signing, a loanee, potential debuts and important injury returns - it was the selection that had it all.

Arguably the best news was the return from injury of Tommy Freeman, who had been sidelined with a hamstring problem since suffering it in England training back in January.

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Freeman has been sorely missed by Saints, who have occasionally opted to shoehorn centre Rory Hutchinson into a full-back role, with mixed results.

Had Freeman been available, Saints could have teamed him up with George Furbank without the questions that followed Furbank's selection at fly-half.

So what a boost it is to get the talented youngster back as he has already shown just how important he is to the club during the formative stages of his career.

Saints will be hoping another player who has previously received an England call-up, Alex Moon, can start to have a major impact again after recovering from his own injury.

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Moon has not played since December due to a hand problem, but, at his best, he is a real competitor for a second row starting spot.

He will line up alongside an unfamiliar face this weekend, with Bedford loanee Luke Frost given a chance on the big stage, or at least something that resembles it.

Elsewhere in the squad, it will be a big day for Danny Hobbs-Awoyemi as he prepares to get his first competitive Saints game time since suffering an Achilles injury back in September 2020.

It has blighted his return to Northampton and he has been forced to follow a long and winding path, that included appearances at Bedford, back to full fitness.

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He is joined on the bench by some extremely fresh faces, with prop Ed Prowse, No.8 George Patten and wing Frankie Sleightholme all hoping to make their first Saints appearances this weekend.

Patten and Sleightholme, both of Northampton School for Boys and Northampton Old Scouts, have been rewarded for their efforts in Saints’ recent run to the Academy League final.

And finally, the young and older will be skippered by Piers Francis, who will hope for better luck against Saracens than that he endured in January.

Francis left the field in tears in the Premiership encounter having suffered a foot injury that he would add to his lengthy list of injury issues.

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But he is back now, having made four appearances as a replacement since then, and he will be ready to use all of his experience to try to steer this much-changed Saints team to victory.

Tom's prediction: With a new-look side, it's hard to know what to expect here, but Saints' attacking game suits Saracens' artificial surface. And with some really talented backs on show for Saints, they can win this one. Saracens 27 Saints 32.