Worcester Warriors v Northampton Saints: Tom Vickers' big match preview

Fixture: Worcester Warriors v Northampton Saints

By Tom Vickers
Friday, 26th March 2021, 12:45 pm
Updated Friday, 26th March 2021, 12:46 pm
Mike Haywood scored for Saints when they won at Worcester in March last year
Mike Haywood scored for Saints when they won at Worcester in March last year

Competition: Gallagher Premiership (round 15)

Venue: Sixways Stadium, Worcester

Date and kick-off time: Saturday, March 27, 2021, 3pm

Weather: 10c, cloudy

Live television coverage: BT Sport Extra 2

Referee: Andrew Jackson (27th Premiership game)

Worcester Warriors: Pennell; Ashton, Lawrence, Beck, Humphreys; Searle, Hougaard; Waller, Annett, Schonert; A Kitchener, Clegg; Hill (c), Kvesic, Batley.

Replacements: Miller, Thomas, van Dyk, Dodd, du Preez, Smith, Venter.

Saints: Furbank; Collins, Hutchinson, Francis, Sleightholme; Biggar, Mitchell; Waller (c), Matavesi, Painter; Ribbans, Ratuniyarawa; Isiekwe, Wood, Harrison.

Replacements: Haywood, Auterac, Hill, Coles, Adendorff, James, Dingwall, Freeman.

Outs: Saints: Owen Franks (foot), Danny Hobbs-Awoyemi (Achilles), Courtney Lawes (pectoral), Lewis Ludlam (cheek), Matt Proctor (calf), Kayde Sylvester (Achilles).

Most recent meeting: Saturday, December 26, 2020: Saints 29 Worcester Warriors 10 (Gallagher Premiership)

Tom's preview: When Saints walk onto the field at Sixways on Saturday afternoon, there might just be a little extra emotion in the air.

Even for the least nostalgic of observers, there may be a moment of reflection.

Because the last time Saints trotted out at Worcester, we were living in 'the old normal'.

Fans were in the ground and although people were starting to hear about Covid-19, there were more concerns about Saints getting the win than the state of the world.

The pace at which the pandemic accelerated into our lives was quite incredible, leading to rugby being shut down for a full five months after Saints beat Worcester 16-10 on that night at Sixways.

But, thankfully, elite sport has found a way through the darkness.

It has managed to come up with ways to function safely, and how grateful we all are for that.

Because no matter how many defeats Saints suffer - and they suffered an incredible 12 in a row after rugby returned from self-isolation last year - the fact they are even playing is reason to rejoice.

This week's trip to Worcester puts it all in perspective once again.

Because while last Sunday's defeat to Bristol Bears felt painful at the time, it was nothing compared to how we all felt when sport left our lives for so many months during 2020.

And it is certainly nothing compared to the restrictions we have all had to deal with and the fact so many have lost loved ones during the past 12 months.

Sport is, as ever, a welcome distraction and the loss of it last year was keenly felt.

There was little escape from the horrors that were unfolding, but rugby finally made its return in August.

And though Saints struggled to click out of hibernation mode, winning just once between August and September, at least they were playing, and at least we had live action to talk about.

Perhaps some have started to take that for granted again, but this weekend will be a chance to sit back and be thankful.

Thankful that Saints are in action and thankful that they are no longer in that slump.

Chris Boyd's side still have a realistic chance of reaching the play-offs, but they must now find some consistency if they are to achieve that aim.

They have followed impressive wins with agonising defeats in recent months.

But now they have a run of games against sides below them in the standings, and they simply have to capitalise.

None of the matches will be easier, but they should be easier than taking on the likes of Exeter and Bristol.

Worcester haven't won in the league since November, and Saints have to avoid becoming the fall guys this weekend.

But even if this game ends in defeat, it is important to remember just how far we have all come since the last time Saints were at Sixways.

Tom's prediction: Worcester will certainly pose a threat to Saints, but Chris Boyd's side must be winning matches like this if they are to get anywhere near finishing in the top four this season. Worcester 23 Saints 31.