By Darraghgirl
September 13 2018

  This Saturday sees the annual pilgrimage up the M1 to our Saintly neighbours in Northampton. Last season they weren’t too pleased to see us after we put 50 points on them in 4 successive games but I have a feeling this one could be different. Saints have a new Head Coach, Chris Boyd, supported by former Saints AND Sarries’ scrum half Alan Dickens, the defence coach and the man who was temporarily in charge (and staved off relegation) after the departure of Jim Mallinder last year. There is more new blood in Sam Vesty (formerly of Tigers & Bath) who joined as attack coach over the summer and Matt Ferguson (previously England ladies’ forwards coach. They join forwards coach Phil Dowson.  

There has been new blood in the playing staff as well. Saints had a bit of a changing of the guard at the end of last season with multiple departures including Ben Foden, Stephen Myler, George North, Kieran Brookes, Christian Day, Jamie Elliott, Nic Groom, Campese Ma’afu & Tom Stephenson. In their place, Saints have brought some serious talent to The Gardens including Welsh fly-half Dan Biggar, England Stalwart James Haskell and southern hemisphere talent from Waratahs: Andrew Kellaway & Taqele Naiyaravoro. They are joined by Dom Barrow, Charlie Davies, Will Davis, Ben Franks, Andy Symons and Matt Worley. They join established stars like Piers Francis, Courtney Lawes, Teimana Harrison, Ken Pisi, the delightfully named Ahsee Tuala and Luther Burrell, not forgetting of course Dylan Hartley who looks set to resume the England captaincy.

Saints have had a bit of a mixed start so far this season, losing away to Gloucester on the first weekend before beating Quins at home last Friday (thanks mainly to 17 points from the boot of Biggar and a try from Hartley). Thus far, Naiyaravoro has not been unleashed but if the press are to be believed, it sounds like his new 2 stone lighter self he could be making his debut this weekend against the old enemy. Saints could start with something like this:

Tuala, Tuitavake, Burrell, Francis, Naiyaravoro, Biggar, Reinach, Waller, Hartley, Franks, Ribbans Lawes Haskell, Brussow, Harrison

Sarries have started the season with two 5 point wins over Newcastle and Bristol without ever really getting out of 3rd gear. I suspect they may need to hit 4th gear at least this weekend if they are to keep their unbeaten run going. I suspect Mark McCall will go for something like:

Goode, Williams, Lozowski, Barritt, Lewington, Farrell, Spencer, M Vunipola, George, Koch, Itoje, Skelton, Rhodes, Wray, B Vunipola

The RFU, clearly with a sense of humour, have appointed your friend and mine JP Doyle to be in charge. There is history! At least the TMO is Keith Lewis and not YOUKNOWWHO!

We still have no match reporter so PLEASE if someone is off to The Gardens and could write a few words about the game, The Eds would be eternally grateful!