Northampton Saints v Bath Premiership Preview

Northampton Saints Director of rugby Jim Mallinder says that his team are prepared for a tough challenge when they play Bath at a sold-out Franklin’s Gardens tomorrow afternoon.


The Saints return to Aviva Premiership Rugby action in the Christmas Eve clash looking to return to the form that took them into the play-off spots in November.


But Mallinder says that they will have to overcome a Bath team that has plenty of talented and experienced players.


“Regardless of results you cannot afford to take a team like Bath lightly,” he said.


“They have players who know what it takes to succeed at the highest level, including winning a World Cup, and Sir Ian McGeechan has coached successful teams wherever he has been.


“We were pleased with how we performed in the second half against Castres, but there have been plenty of things to work on from the first half and all the players have been working hard during the week to iron out their mistakes.


“It is a big match for both teams and we will need to be at our best to get a positive result.”


Northampton Saints have won their last two games at Franklin’s Gardens – against Saracens and Castres, but their four match winning run in Aviva Premiership Rugby ended last time out at Leicester.


Bath Rugby have slipped to four straight defeats in all competitions, whilst their only victory in their last seven encounters since October was 16-13 at home to Montpellier on 20 November.


Bath’s most recent away win was 13-12 at London Irish on 29 October.


The last five fixtures between the two clubs have all been won by the home side on the day.


Bath’s only victory against Northampton at Franklin’s Gardens since 1994 was 17-13 on 22 April 2000, although Bath did beat Saracens 37-30 there in the Premiership on 6 November 2004.


Ross Batty, Andy Beattie, Ben Williams and Matt Carraro all return to the Bath Rugby starting line-up this weekend.


Batty comes into the front row alongside David Flatman and David Wilson, with Dave Attwood and Ryan Caldwell continuing their partnership in the engine room.


Andy Beattie takes up the blindside flank position, as Guy Mercer continues at openside and Francois Louw shifts to the back of the scrum at number 8. Simon Taylor is ruled out after picking up a knock against Leinster.


Michael Claassens and Stephen Donald link up once again in the half backs, as Ben Williams starts at outside centre, partnering Olly Barkley on the inside.


Matt Banahan shifts to the wing, with Matt Carraro coming in on the opposite side. Nick Abendanon completes the line-up at fullback.


The Bookies have given the visiting team Bath a 12 points start for this match as they are away from home.


Match : Northampton Saints v Bath Rugby
Date : Saturday 24th December
Venue : Franklin’s Gardens
Kick Off : 3.15pm
Live on: Sky Sports HD
Referee: David Rose (96th Premiership game)


Teams


Northampton Saints


15 Ben Foden , 14 Vasily Artemyev , 13 George Pisi , 12 James Downey , 11 Jamie Elliott , 10 Ryan Lamb , 9 Lee Dickson , , 8 Roger Wilson, 7 Tom Wood, 6 Phil Dowson, 5 Mark Sorenson , 4 Courtney Lawes, 3 Paul Doran Jones ,2 Dylan Hartley (capt) , 1 Soane Tonga’uiha


Replacements , 16 Mike Haywood , 17 Alex Waller , 18 Tom Mercey , 19 Samu Manoa , 20 Ben Nutley , 21 Martin Roberts , 22 Stephen Myler , 23 Scott Armstrong


Bath


15. Nick Abendanon , 14. Matt Carraro , 13. Ben Williams , 12. Olly Barkley , 11. Matt Banahan , 10. Stephen Donald , 9. Michael Claassens , , 8. Francois Louw (c) , 7. Guy Mercer , 6. Andy Beattie , 5. Ryan Caldwell , 4. Dave Attwood, 3. David Wilson , 2

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