Tom Vickers’ Northampton Saints versus Bath preview

INSPIRATION - Luis Ghault with Alex Corbisiero and Tom Wood after the Aviva Premiership Final win over Saracens in May (Picture: Claire Jones)
INSPIRATION - Luis Ghault with Alex Corbisiero and Tom Wood after the Aviva Premiership Final win over Saracens in May (Picture: Claire Jones)

When Saints run out at Franklin’s Gardens on Saturday, they will do so with sadness in their hearts and motivation in their minds.

On Tuesday, the squad lost one of its members. He may not have been a player, but the part he played in last season’s success was no less substantial.

Luis Ghaut, who lost his battle with Osteosarcoma on Tuesday, was a 13-year-old with a broad smile and an infectious attitude which spurred Saints on last season.

When Saints beat Leicester in the magical Aviva Premiership semi-final back in May, Tom Wood, who scored the crucial try, dedicated the win to Luis.

It was a post-match interview that could have been used to extol the virtues of beating the old enemy or to bask in the glory of grabbing that memorable score.

But Wood had no time for that.

He wanted to talk about ‘the incredibly inspiring lad’ who had driven Saints over the line.

And it was more of the same on Premiership final day two weeks later.

Luis had undergone major surgery in the weeks leading up to the Twickenham encounter with Saracens, but he battled to be ready to fulfil his role as the club’s mascot.

And his presence was inspiration enough to help drive Saints to their first league title at the expense of Saracens.

Alex Waller’s try in the final play of extra-time won it.

Saints had kept fighting until the end - just as Luis did.

Put simply, there are not many teenagers who can claim to be a hero for their heroes. Luis was.

“He’s been phenomenal,” said Saints scrum-half Lee Dickson. “For someone at such a young age to have something like that is terrible but the way he acted and the way his family acted was just a credit to them.

“He was always here with a smile on his face and whatever was happening, he always wanted to be with the boys.

“He was the bravest little kid around, no doubt about it. He was a brave little soul. He’s an inspiration for us.”

This Saturday, when Bath come calling in Northampton, he will not be there in person, but his spirit will remain.

And you wouldn’t fancy being in the away camp with such a fired-up home side lying in wait.

Wood and Co will know the events of this week are about more than rugby.

But they will also know they have a job to do - and will, once again, call on Luis for inspiration.

Saints rarely perform better than when external factors are at work and they are good enough to turn desire into delivery.

In Bath, they have an opposition side saturated with belief following last weekend’s 45-0 mauling of Leicester Tigers.

But Saints have not lost a home game against the west country outfit since April, 2003.

And with thoughts of Luis reverberating around the Gardens this weekend, they have all the motivation they need to do one of their biggest fans proud once again.

Fixture: Northampton Saints v Bath (Aviva Premiership round four)

Date/kick-off time: Saturday, September 27, 3.15pm

Venue: Franklin’s Gardens, Northampton

Weather forecast: 18c, sunny spells

Saints: Foden; K Pisi, G Pisi, Burrell, North; Myler, Fotuali’i; Corbisiero, Hartley, Ma’afu; Lawes, Day; Clark, Wood, Manoa

Replacements: McMillan, A Waller, Denman, Craig, Fisher, L Dickson, Hooley, Wilson.

Bath: Arscott; Rokoduguni, Joseph, Eastmond, Woodburn; Ford, Cook; James, Webber, Wilson; Hooper, Attwood; Fa’osiliva, Mercer, Houston.

Replacements: Dunn, Auterac, Thomas, Day, Ewels, Stringer, Henson, Devoto.

Outs: Saints: Haywood (shoulder), Dickinson (neck), G Dickson (hip), Hodgson (wrist). Bath: Francois Louw (neck), Matt Banahan, Carl Fearns

Most recent meeting: Friday, May 23: Bath 16 Saints 30

Tom’s prediction: Saints 21 Bath 17