Preview: Northampton v Worcester

Date published: May 4 2012

Northampton chief Jim Mallinder has stuck with the tried and tested as his side look to secure a play-off spot against Worcester.

Northampton chief Jim Mallinder has stuck with the tried and tested as his side look to secure a play-off spot against Worcester.

The Saints are currently in possession of the final play-off berth and a win against the Warriors will mean that regardless of what Exeter achieve against Saracens, it will be Northampton who remain in contention for the title.

Mallinder has retained the side that beat Exeter last week, with winger Chris Ashton set to play his final game at Franklin's Gardens.

“The job is only half-done,” Malinder told the Northampton official website.

“We put in a good performance against Exeter and the win put us back into fourth spot ahead of the last round of the regular season.

“However we can still be caught and we do not want our place in the play-offs to be in other teams' hands. Only a win over Worcester will guarantee our place in the knockout stages and we have been fully focused on achieving that in training this week.

“Worcester will be dangerous opponents for us. They have secured their place in the Premiership and can play without any pressure or fear. We still remember how Leeds scored three tries very quickly against us at the same stage last year, and Worcester are capable of doing the same if we give them the time and space to do so.

In their first season back in the Premiership, Worcester have achieved their primary goal of avoiding the drop and boss Richard Hill has made a number of changes as he looks towards the next campaign.

In the back division, wing Josh Drauniniu, centre Ravai Fatiaki, fly-half Danny Gray and full-back Tom Arscott are all named in the starting line-up.

There are a further four changes among the forwards, with hooker Chris Fortey, prop Bruce Douglas and back rowers Neil Best and Matt Kvesic all featuring.

“There are no trophies on it for us, but it is a big end of the season for Northampton and is not going to be an easy place to go to,” Hill said of the clash.

“However, we can relax and pick a very attacking team and people who have perhaps not had the opportunities in the first team. They are fresh and desperately want to produce. If we can get into the right areas then we can be dangerous.

“Where possible I have tried to pick people who will be here next year, those that want to perform and I want the most motivated players out playing for the Warriors.”

Form: Northampton Saints require a victory in this match to qualify for the Aviva Premiership semi-finals for a third successive year. Saints have won three of their last four games in the competition. Worcester Warriors have slipped to three straight defeats, and have not been victorious away from home since a trip to London Wasps on New Year's Day. The Warriors won 12-3 against the Saints at Sixways in round five, but have not achieved a Premiership double over Northampton since 2004/05.

Rugby Union betting odds

The teams:

Northampton: 15 Ben Foden, 14 Chris Ashton, 13 George Pisi, 12 James Downey, 11 Paul Diggin, 10 Stephen Myler, 9 Lee Dickson (capt), 8 Roger Wilson, 7 Phil Dowson, 6 James Craig, 5 Christian Day, 4 Mark Sorenson, 3 Brian Mujati, 2 Andy Long, 1 Soane Tonga'Uiha.
Replacements: 16 Ross McMillan, 17 Alex Waller, 18 Paul Doran Jones, 19 Ben Nutley, 20 Teimana Harrison, 21 Martin Roberts, 22 Ryan Lamb, 23 Tom May.

Worcester: 15 Tom Arscott, 14 Miles Benjamin, 13 Alex Grove, 12 Ravai Fatiaki, 11 Josh Drauniniu, 10 Danny Gray, 9 Shaun Perry (c), 8 Kai Horstmann, 7 Matt Kvesic, 6 Neil Best, 5 Craig Gillies, 4 James Percival, 3 Bruce Douglas, 2 Chris Fortey, 1 George Porter.
Replacements: 16 Ed Shervington, 17 Ryan Furniss, 18 Ceri Jones, 19 Ben Gulliver, 20 Sam Betty, 21 Jonny Arr, 22 Joe Carlisle, 23 Charlie Hayter.

Date: Saturday, May 5
Venue: Franklin's Gardens
Kick-off: 14:00 (13:00 GMT)
Referee: Greg Garner
Assistant referees: Andrew Watson, Nigel Carrick
Television match official: David Matthews