Tom Vickers’ Northampton Saints v Wasps preview

STAYING FOCUSED - Jim Mallinder knows his side have a job to do this weekend (Picture: Linda Dawson)
STAYING FOCUSED - Jim Mallinder knows his side have a job to do this weekend (Picture: Linda Dawson)

Saints will have three key aims when they host Wasps on Saturday.

The first is to get the single point they need to secure a home Premiership play-off semi-final.

The second is to come through the game unscathed, with no players struck down by injury.

And the third is to win the game, keeping the momentum going ahead of what looks likely to be a date with Leicester in the shoot-out for a place at Twickenham on May 31.

Saints may feel it should already be job done in the pursuit of a top-two place, with a sticky patch at the end of March causing the club to stumble slightly.

But it is still very much in their own hands and they should be confident of completing their mission against a Wasps side with one eye on the Champions Cup play-off against Stade Francais a week later.

London Irish proved you don’t need much to play for to give Saints a scare.

They pushed Jim Mallinder’s men close at Franklin’s Gardens last month.

But with home advantage and three games unbeaten behind them, the green, black and gold should have the belief and poise to ensure it is business as usual this weekend.

What follows will be two defining games in the club’s history with the chance of securing English rugby’s top prize and the Amlin Challenge Cup on the agenda.

But Saints will know they can’t afford to look any further than this Saturday, with the consequences of failure stark.

Any game against Leicester is tough enough – Saints have not beaten the Tigers since September, 2010 – but a trip to Welford Road would be a mountainous task.

And it would be made harder by the knowledge that Northampton wasted their chance of home advantage, going into the game on the back of a defeat.

That is simply unthinkable and Mallinder will not need to stress just how key a positive result could be this week.

Saints will need every ounce of momentum and confidence they can conjure going into next week’s game.

Consequently, ensuring there is no sting in the Wasps tail will be critical to their hopes of putting some silverware in the Gardens trophy cabinet this season.