News: Northampton Saints vs Bath Rugby - Match Preview
By Western Wanderer
September 2 2016
After what seems to have been an all too brief summer, the rugby juggernaut that is The Aviva Premiership rolls back into town this weekend and first up for Northampton Saints is the visit of Bath Rugby to Franklin's Gardens. Regular COYSDC contributor, Western Wanderer, takes a look ahead to the opening AP match of the season...
NORTHAMPTON SAINTS vs BATH RUGBY
Saturday, 3rd September 2016 - 3.30pm
FRANKLIN'S GARDENS, NORTHAMPTON
A new season is meant to be a time of anticipation, a time of optimism for the new season, excitement at new signings and hope for promising youngsters, yet Franklin’s Gardens feels a little despondent after last season’s disappointing fifth place, missing the playoffs for the first time in seven years. Continuity seems to be the watchword, with only a handful of arrivals: Louis Picamoles will provide experience in a crucial position together with impetus, whilst Nic Groom will hopefully provide some snappy passing and zip around the fringes (until box kicking is programmed into him).
Saints still seem to suffer from a lack of variety in gameplan, not helped by a lack of bulk in the pack to support driving and mauling game, whilst at fullback with Foden does not have the pace of old. Injury seems to have hit JJ Hanrahan at the wrong time, whilst appreciation for the creativity of young Harry Mallinder is offset by concerns about his defence.
I doubt Becky James’s boyfriend is fit after pulling a hamstring on Wales’s tour to New Zealand, but his non-appearance is not relevant if he’s never passed the ball in space. Courtney Lawes has returned heavily strapped post operation during the warm-up games to provide so thrust to the pack, but Christian Day’s arm remains in a sling, so Patterson will have an important role to play after spending much of last season outside the matchday 23. I remain (naively) optimistic that other youngsters such as Collins, Packman, Ludlam and Bennett will be given their opportunity too after the performances of Harrison and Mallinder last season, but this Saturday is probably a little early.
Our counterparts on Saturday, Bath endured a terrible season of acrimony: court cases, disciplinaries and sackings, finishing down in ninth. Their recently recruited coach Todd Blackadder has only been in place for a couple of weeks so it is hard to form an opinion of where they’ll finish up. The arrival of Charteris and Faletau certainly beefs up the pack which should provide good quality ball and Fotuali should give a fantastic service to Rhys Priestland or George Ford (now made vice captain). But the late departure of Eastmond leaves them painfully short in the backs, although rumours abound about the injury-prone Robbie Freuan. They can't be as bad as last season and hopefully the Burgess legacy and malcontent have been buried. Less than half of 2014/15 finalists squad remain and stability wins rugby matches, but they’ve still got an exciting looking backline with Joseph and Watson to create and finish. Francois Louw is on South African duty but expect new skipper Guy Mercer to start.
It is February 2011 since Bath last beat Saints in the league, but I expect the superior grunt of Bath’s pack to boss the day driven on by Attwood, Charteris and Faletau despite Tom Wood’s drive as newly installed captain.
The West Country boys by a single score to create further curmudgeonly grumblings in the Midlands.
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That's a useful of a mental advantage going into the game which we need to capitalise on.
Saints to win. Just.
Saint 'til I die