Northampton Saints v Newcastle preview

Northampton Saints’ only loss in any competition this season was 17-24 at Saracens in Aviva Premiership Rugby on 26 September.


The Saints only home defeat in a Premiership regular season fixture since Newcastle won at Franklin’s Gardens in February 2009 was 27-28 to Saracens in round 21 last season.

Newcastle Falcons’ only victory in their last six games in all competitions was 22-16 in Bourgoin in the European Challenge Cup on 7 October. Falcons have won just one of their last ten away encounters: 32-30 at Sale on 23 April.


Northampton did the Premiership double over Newcastle last season, whilst Falcons have won on two of their last four visits to Franklin’s Gardens.


Northampton Saints Director of rugby Jim Mallinder believes that the squad has the strength in depth to continue the team’s recent good run in Aviva Premiership Rugby.


With four players away with England, and Bruce Reihana still injured, Mallinder has been forced into making several changes to his team from that which beat London Wasps in Round 6.


But he says that this is something that the Saints coaches have been planning for all season and that the players coming in will not let the team down.


“All of our players have been battling hard for selection all season, which is one of the reasons our standards have been high,” he said. “We pick on form and to keep the shirt the players have had to play well.


“We want our players to have ambitions to represent their country and it is a fact of life that if you are successful there are times of the season when you have to do without some of your players.


“But we believe that our squad has the depth we need to stay at the top end of the league table. Everyone who is coming in deserves their chance and they have been playing well for both the Wanderers and in the first team in previous games.


“They will certainly have to play well on Saturday. Newcastle are a team that likes to play good rugby, as we saw last Friday when they were unlucky not to have beaten Saracens. We also remember how they came at us two years ago when they scored points quickly and put us on the back foot.


“So we will have to concentrate, get a good start and impose our game plan from the first whistle.”

 

Newcastle Falcons head coach Alan Tait has made just one change to his side as Samoan international Filipo Levi comes into the second row as Glen Townson misses out with an ankle injury.

 

On the bench there is a return for Jeremy Manning, with the ex-Munsterman having missed the last two games due to ankle trouble.

 

Luke Fielden aims to continue his hot streak on the right wing, with the summer signing having crossed the try line in each of his last three outings.

 

Speaking ahead of the game, Tait said: “We all probably had a sleepless night last Friday after the Saracens game, but you just have to move on and that’s the beauty of this league.

 

“Northampton away is a big enough challenge for us to focus on without doubt, especially when you look at what they did down at Wasps last weekend. That’s the thing about this Aviva Premiership, there’s no let-up and it’s quality opposition every single week, so you don’t have time to dwell on your last game too much.

 

“Sure, you look and learn where you can improve, but there’s always another huge challenge round the corner and that’s where your attention has to be.”

 

With Northampton missing the England quartet of Chris Ashton, Courtney Lawes, Ben Foden and Dylan Hartkey, Tait said: “We know they’re without a few quality players, but you don’t get to where they are without having a great squad in behind them.

 

“They can bring class in from the bench, they have plenty of cover

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