Worcester Warriors v Northampton Saints: Tom Vickers' big match preview
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Competition: Gallagher Premiership
Venue: Sixways Stadium, Worcester
Date and kick-off time: Saturday, January 29, 2022, 3pm
Weather forecast: 11c, partly cloudy
Live television coverage: None
Referee: Ian Tempest
Worcester Warriors: Searle; Humphreys, Venter, Beck, van der Merwe; Smith, Simpson; Sutherland, Annett, Judge; Batley, Kitchener; Hatherell, Hill (c), Kvesic.
Replacements: Miller, Waller, Tyack, Clegg, Vailanu, Chudley, Williams, Hearle.
Saints: Tuala; Sleightholme, Dingwall (c), Hutchinson, Collins; Biggar, Mitchell; Waller, Matavesi, Hill; Ribbans, Ratuniyarawa; Wood, Harrison, Augustus.
Replacements: Fish, Iyogun, Carey, Nansen, Coles, James, Grayson, Proctor.
Not considered for Saints selection: Matthew Arden, Emeka Atuanya, Callum Burns, Piers Francis, Jake Garside, Oisín Heffernan, Alex Moon, Taqele Naiyaravoro, Courtnall Skosan, Kayde Sylvester.
International duty: Tommy Freeman, George Furbank, Courtney Lawes, Lewis Ludlam.
Most recent meeting: Friday, October 22, 2021: Saints 66 Worcester Warriors 10 (Gallagher Premiership)
Tom's preview: To say Saints have had the better of their recent meetings with Worcester Warriors would be something of an understatement.
The black, green and gold have won each of their past eight games against the Warriors, racking up an eye-watering 128 points during the previous two, conceding just 24 in the process.
And how they would love a repeat performance in Worcester this weekend.
Because while every game is crucial, you really can feel the importance of this Gallagher Premiership showdown for Saints.
They really need to back up their big performance in the 44-8 win at Newcastle Falcons last time out in the league.
And with a weekend off next week - it is Saints' second and final bye week of the Premiership campaign - they would love to put their feet up in good spirits.
Especially as the game that will follow that mini-break is a Friday night trip to Leicester Tigers.
Saints know that any slip-ups can prove costly as they bid to keep pace with the top four.
Tigers, Saracens, Harlequins and Gloucester show few signs of slowing down.
And Exeter, who currently sit sixth, aren't bad either.
The second half of the season promises to be something special in England's top tier - and Saints will certainly hope that applies to them.
They have been decent during the first 12 games, picking up some eye-catching wins against the likes of Exeter and Bristol.
But there is no time to slow down in such a relentless environment and the fact Saints didn't have to put themselves through the wringer at Racing 92 last weekend was a positive (excuse the Covid-19 reference here).
No one wants to be hit by the virus but you felt Saints really could do without a trip to Paris to face the fired-up French giants in their own backyard.
And so the cancellation of that game due to Covid came at the right time for Saints, who really needed to recharge and reset ahead of the Premiership run-in.
Now they will hope there are no ill effects this weekend as they bid to claim a win that would set them up perfectly for that Tigers tussle.
It is another significant weekend in a season full of them.
And though Worcester will undoubtedly have new energy following the news that Steve Diamond will be their director of rugby next season, Saints will hope they can combat that with class.
They are able to field a side that possesses plenty of talent and experience.
Now they have to show those qualities at Sixways once again on Saturday afternoon.
Tom's prediction: Saints have turned in some brilliant showings against Worcester in recent times, and they really need another one here as they look to keep in touch with the top four. Worcester 21 Saints 31.