Northampton v Saracens preview: Saints return to a new-look Franklin’s Gardens to take on Sarries
Northampton Saints return to a new-look Franklin’s Gardens to face Sarecens on Saturday: 3:15 pm kick-off
Saints make four changes from the starting XV that lost to Sale in round three
Visitors welcome back England stars Billy Vunipola, Brad Barritt, Richard Wigglesworth
Sarries also welcome back USA winger Chri Wyles to their run-on team
Since the sides met in the semi-final of Aviva Premiership play-offs in 2014 and Northampton Saints went on to be the eventual winners for the first time, fixtures have always been feisty between these two.
And even more so this season as the tables were turned when Saracens beat Northampton last year to lift the title in the final against Bath.
After three games, Saracens are unbeaten and at the top of the table and look to be playing with a very high level of confidence, whereas Northampton are currently sitting in seventh with only one win from three games.
“Losing in the play-offs last year does add that little bit of fire in us and the boys really are champing at the bit; I can’t wait for it,” said Saints hooker Mike Haywood, adding: “Franklin’s Gardens is our fortress; we want to make sure we don’t lose here.”
Northampton Saints return to a new-look Franklin’s Gardens, which has an increased capacity this year and Saints will be hoping those added numbers can cheer them on to their second win of the season.
Saints have made four changes from their defeat against Sale last weekend with Dylan Hartley and Christian Day stepping up from the bench while George North and James Craig will be making their first starts of the season.
In the other camp, Sarries fly-half Owen Farrell said of the game: “This is massive for us. Northampton are a brilliant side and they will be coming out fighting off the back of a loss last week.
“I’m sure they will be up for it and will want to put in a good performance in front of their home crowd.”
Sarries will be boosted by the return of USA international Chris Wyles while they also welcome back a number of their England stars as Billy Vunipola, Brad Barritt and Richard Wigglesworth all take to the field.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Saracens: Jamie George
Hooker George is a must-pick for Saracens with his force and leadership skills sure to be crucial. The three-cap England man is arguably in the form of his life and will be looking to build on a strong start to the year for himself as he searches for a regular place on the international stage.
Northampton: George North
With their Northampton floundering, George North could be the man to lift his side. A key performer has been difficult to pick out so far this season for Saints, but if the big Welshman can return to the form and fitness he expects of himself for both club and country, he has the ability to drag victory from the jaws of defeat and could play a crucial role tomorrow.
Northampton Saints: 15 Ben Foden, 14 Jamie Elliot, 13 George Pisi, 12 Luther Burrell, 11 George North, 10 Stephen Myler, 9 Kahn Fotuali’i, 8 Sam Dickson, 7 Tom Wood (c), 6, Jamie Gibson, 5, Christian Day, 4 James Craig, 3 Kieran Brookes, 2 Dylan Hartley, 1 Alex Waller.
Replacements: 16 Mikey Haywood, 17 Ethan Waller, 18 Paul Hill, 19 Michael Paterson, 20 Teimana Harrison, 21 Lee Dickson, 22 JJ Hanrahan, 23 Ahsee Tuala.
Saracens: 15 Alex Goode, 14 Chris Ashton, 13 Duncan Taylor, 12 Brad Barritt, 11 Chris Wyles, 10 Owen Farrell, 9 Richard Wigglesworth, 8 Billy Vunipola, 7 Jacques Burger, 6 Maro Itoje, 5 Alistair Hargreaves (c), 4 George Kruis, 3 Petrus Du Plessis, 2 Schalk Brits, 1 Mako Vunipola
Replacements: 16 Jamie George, 17 Richard Barrington, 18 Juan Figallo, 19 Michael Rhodes, 20 Kelly Brown, 21 Ben Spencer, 22 Charlie Hodgson, 3 Marcelo Bosch
Date: Saturday, November 7
Venue: Franklin’s Gardens
Kick-off: 15:15 GMT
Referee: Luke Pearce
Assistant referees: Peter Allan, Andy Watson
TMO: Trevor Fisher