Planet Rugby

Preview: Northampton v Gloucester

25th February 2011 12:03

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Northampton v Edinburgh Jon Clarke

Saints 13: Jon Clarke

Northampton director of rugby Jim Mallinder insists that Saints are in a determined mood heading into this Saturday's clash against Gloucester.

The Saints and Cherry and Whites had three titanic battles last season in Aviva Premiership Rugby and LV= Cup, and although they have yet to meet each other this season it could be another such battle at Franklin's Gardens with the teams occupying the league's third and fourth spot.

Mallinder acknowledged that the showings against Saracens and Bath have left something to be desired, but that the players were putting things right on Saturday.

"We've achieved well below the standards we expect of ourselves in the past two weeks, we know that," the Saints' boss commented.

"We know we can do better and we're looking forward to doing so tomorrow against a tough Gloucester team that has been getting some good results recently.

"However we have not become a bad team overnight. We played well for long periods against Saracens, as we have done for the vast majority of the season. The players have been in a positive frame of mind this week in training, have worked hard and been honest with each other about what we need to do this week and for the rest of the season."

Meanwhile, injuries and international call-ups mean that Gloucester boss Bryan Redpath has called up a couple of his young guns for Saturday.

Redpath has tried, by and large, to keep faith with the side that defeated London Irish at Kingsholm last Friday.

However, the resumption of the Six Nations sees the Lawsons, Rory and Scott, named in the Scotland squad and Mike Tindall is away captaining England.

In addition, Dave Lewis and Charlie Sharples both picked up knocks in the victory over the Exiles and are ruled out.

As a result, Jonny May and Jordi Pasqualin are named on the right wing and at scrum half respectively and England U20 scrum-half Dan Robson is recalled from international duty to take his place amongst the replacements.

Olivier Azam comes in for Lawson at hooker and Akapusi Qera gets the nod instead of Andy Hazell who played against Irish despite being unwell.

Of note amongst the replacements are the returns to the first team squad of Dave Attwood and Henry Trinder who both made playing comebacks in the A League on Monday evening.

Saints have been pacesetters in the Aviva Premiership this season but went down to a 38-8 defeat at Bath last weekend, a result which Redpath knows will give Jim Mallinder's side all the motivation they need.

"They'll be disappointed about last week because, if they lose, they rarely lose by that amount. They'll be pretty fired up at the weekend," he said.

"We've highlighted that they don't lose very often at home and we know that we're in for a very tough game and it could well be close. We're going away from home to a top two club and we've got to front up.

"The performance will be key. As we've said in the past, if the performance is there then the result will take care of itself."

Form: Northampton have won their last four encounters with Gloucester in all competitions, whilst Gloucester have won on two of their last five visits to Franklin's Gardens. Northampton Saints have now suffered four straight defeats in Aviva Premiership Rugby since the turn of the year, but have not lost five in succession in the competition since season 2005/06. Gloucester Rugby have won their last seven matches in all competitions, and have not strung together eight wins in a row since season 2007/08. Gloucester's two away wins in the Premiership this season have come at Bath and at Wasps.

The teams:

Northampton: 15 Greig Tonks, 14 Bruce Reihana, 13 Jon Clarke, 12 James Downey, 11 Paul Diggin, 10 Stephen Myler, 9 Ryan Powell, 8 Mark Easter, 7 Phil Dowson (capt), 6 Calum Clark, 5 Mark Sorenson, 4 Dan Vickerman, 3 Brian Mujati, 2 Brett Sharman, 1 Soane Tonga'uiha.
Replacements: 16 Andy Long, 17 Alex Waller, 18 Tom Mercey, 19 Christian Day, 20 Courtney Lawes, 21 Stuart Commins, 22 Shane Geraghty, 23 Scott Armstrong.

Gloucester: 15 Olly Morgan, 14 Jonny May, 13 Tim Molenaar, 12 Eliota Fuimaono-Sapolu, 11 Tom Voyce, 10 Nicky Robinson, 9 Jordi Pasqualin, 8 Luke Narraway (capt), 7 Akapusi Qera, 6 Peter Buxton, 5 Jim Hamilton, 4 Will James, 3 Paul Doran-Jones, 2 Olivier Azam, 1 Nick Wood.
Replacements: 16 Darren Dawidiuk, 17 Yann Thomas, 18 Rupert Harden, 19 Dave Attwood, 20 Alasdair Strokosch, 21 Dan Robson, 22 Freddie Burns, 23 Henry Trinder.

Date: Saturday, February 26
Kick-off: 15:00
Venue: Franklin's Gardens
Referee: Martin Fox

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