Tom Vickers’ Northampton Saints v Saracens preview

BIG RIVALRY - Saints celebrate a try in their 41-20 Aviva Premiership win over Saracens earlier this season (Picture: Linda Dawson)
BIG RIVALRY - Saints celebrate a try in their 41-20 Aviva Premiership win over Saracens earlier this season (Picture: Linda Dawson)

England’s game against France on Saturday may be dominating the headlines – but Saints’ clash with Saracens warrants plenty of attention of its own.

The LV= Cup may not be the most prestigious of competitions, but it often throws up plenty of entertainment.

And when have you known a Saints-Saracens clash to produce anything other than impressive pyrotechnics?

It is now ingrained in the mentality of each club that this is a game that matters.

Not just because of past unsavoury incidents off the field, including Soane Tonga’uiha’s well-documented U-turn on a move south in 2010, but because of where the clubs now find themselves.

They have been acclaimed as the best two teams in English rugby right now.

And the Premiership table backs that up, with Saints sitting three points behind table-toppers Sarries.

So do the LV= Cup standings, with the two teams separated by just one point in the pursuit of a home semi-final.

Tomorrow’s clash will sort out the men from the boys as both teams look to ensure home turf advantage come the second weekend of March.

And although plenty of players are on international duty, there will remain no love lost between the sides.

Alex Day, one of the younger members of the Saints squad, this week admitted that players rising through the ranks at the Gardens see Saracens as a real rival.

Battles between the two are always full-blooded, with no blade of grass yielded without a fight.

And you can expect more of the same this weekend.

While it might not be ‘Le Crunch’ is will at least be ‘Le Grudge’ as Saints look to continue their recent good form against their rivals.

Jim Mallinder’s men have won the previous two meetings against Sarries, and they’ve done it in style.

The teams may be very different this time round, but the ambition remains: Keep Sarries under the cosh.

Mentality is half the battle in sport and should the two teams square up in the end-of-season shoot-out, you’d rather go into it as the side who had won the most recent showdowns.

For a long time Sarries had the Indian sign over Saints, winning six of the eight meetings between the two sides since 2010 prior to Northampton’s huge win at Allianz Park last May.

They used to have a mental edge over Saints. Not any more.

Mallinder will be eager for that confidence to continue this weekend and if it does, his team will book the home last-four tie they desire.

The club is craving some silverware, having not claimed a trophy since the LV= Cup triumph in March, 2010.

And they know victory tomorrow will keep them firmly on track.