Northampton Saints v London Irish Preview

The last six encounters between the two clubs have all been won by the home team on the day, whilst London Irish’s last win at Franklin’s Gardens was 21-20 in the Guinness Premiership on 13 November 2004.


Northampton Saints are the best team in the Guinness Premiership on current form, having secured 20 league points from their last six matches. The Saints have won their last eight matches in all competitions, and have suffered only one defeat at Franklin’s Gardens since March 2007.


London Irish are unbeaten in their last five encounters in all competitions and handed current Guinness Premiership leaders Saracens their first defeat of the season on Sunday.


The Exiles are the Premiership’s best away side and amazingly have not lost a game on “opposing” soil since their most recent visit to Northampton in April!


Soane Tonga’uiha will become the latest Saints centurion when he runs out with his Northampton team mates tomorrow afternoon for the Guinness Premiership Round 12 game against London Irish.


The Tongan prop is the third Saint to reach the landmark in the past few weeks, following hot on the heels of centre Jon Clarke and Northampton club captain Dylan Hartley.


He joined the Saints from near-neighbours Bedford Blues in 2006 and made his debut in the opening game of that season’s Guinness Premiership. Tonga’uiha has scored 10 tries in his 99 appearances to date, including two this season.


“Soane has really knuckled down in the past couple of seasons and is starting to play to his potential,” said Saints director of rugby Jim Mallinder. “He is still relatively young for a prop and has plenty of years left in him. But he will have to play extremely well tomorrow, as will the rest of the team, against a talented London Irish outfit.


“They like to play a constructive style of rugby and score a lot of tries. They also have good kickers too, like Ryan Lamb, Chris Malone and Peter Hewat, and are able to keep the score board ticking over.


“If we are to get a positive result we will have to play with control, impose our game plan and be as clinical as we were in the second half against Worcester.”


Having played leaders Saracens at home last Sunday London Irish have made two changes to the starting line-up of the team that played last Sunday – Kieran Roche starts at blindside flanker and Paul Hodgson comes in at scrum half.


“We produced a top class performance against Saracens last Sunday and showed what a quality side we can be,” said London Irish Head Coach Toby Booth. “We need to maintain those standards as we head into the second half of the season.


“After watching Northampton in recent weeks, it is clear that they contest the breakdown very hard and push the laws to the limit. We will need to focus on that aspect to ensure we have a good attacking platform,” Booth added.


Match Detail
Date : Sat 2nd Jan 10 15:00
Venue : Franklin’s Gardens
Referee: Sean Davey (87th Premiership game)


Teams


Northampton Saints


15 Ben Foden , 14 Chris Ashton, 13 Jon Clarke, 12 James Downey, 11 Paul Diggin, 10 Stephen Myler, 9 Lee Dickson, 1 Soane Tonga’uiha, 2 Dylan Hartley (capt), 3 Euan Murray, 4 Ignacio Fernandez Lobbe, 5 Juandre Kruger, 6 Courtney Lawes, 7 Phil Dowson, 8 Roger Wilson


Replacements, 16 Brett Sharman, 17 Jon Vickers, 18 Brian Mujati, 19 Christian Day, 20 Neil Best, 21 Alan Dickens, 22 Shane Geraghty, 23 Chris Mayor.


London Irish


15. Delon Armitage; 14. Tom Homer; 13. Elvis Seveali’i; 12. Seilala Mapusua; 11. Peter Hewat; 10. Chris Malone; 9. Paul Hodgson; 1. Clarke Dermody; 2. David Paice, 3. Paulica Ion; 4. Nick Kennedy; 5. Bob Casey; 6. Kieran Roche; 7. Steffon Armitage; 8. Chris Hala’Ufia.


Replacements:16. Danie Coetzee; 17. Dan Murphy;

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