Preview: Gloucester v Northampton

Date published: March 6 2015

Gloucester will look for a confidence-boosting win when Premiership leaders Northampton visit Kingsholm this weekend.

Table-toppers Northampton have opened up a massive 12-point gap between themselves and the rest of the chasing pack with six games remaining this season – an impressive feat from the Premiership champions.

Winning away at The Rec in Round 15 was very impressive with the league leaders benefiting from having the likes of Lee Dickson and Stephen Myler available from England duty. Courtney Lawes' return against Harlequins for his 150th appearance was another boost.

Travelling to Kingsholm is never easy but last year's fixture served up a classic, with a Try of the Season contender from Jamie Elliott to boot. 

Gloucester may have splashed some serious cash but still find themselves a good 12 points off the top six. Games such as these are the ones that have to win in order to challenge the higher sides.

Gloucester are able to call upon the quartet of players who have been on Six Nations duty in recent weeks.

Returning to the starting line up are Billy Twelvetrees, Greig Laidlaw and Richard Hibbard in addition to Jonny May, who was available for the Wasps fixture last week.

Also coming in to the starting line-up to take on the Saints are full-back Steve McColl and number eight Gareth Evans.

Head Coach Laurie Fisher, talking to the local media this week, admitted it was good to have more selection options this week ahead of a tough game.

"We've got Richard, Greig and Billy back and we had Jonny back last week. Particularly with the long term injuries we have, it's good to be able to call upon those guys.

"They're wonderful professionals and have immediately got their heads into Gloucester Rugby and what's required to get a performance on Saturday. They provide good leadership around the place, there's been a good vibe and they've been integral to a good week's training.

"We were disappointed with last week, but that's a game that can't be won and the game that can be won is the next one.

"They're the defending champions and runaway leaders at the moment. It's going to be tough whatever way you look at it and that requires 100 percent of your attention.

"But it really is about focusing on our game. I don't think you can look too hard at Northampton, you know what they'll bring. If you shut down one component of their game, they can switch to attacking you somewhere else. So we need to get our motivation, energy levels, execution and understanding of our game right.”

Meanwhile, four changes have been made to the Northampton Saints starting line-up. The Saints head to Kingsholm with three changes in the pack and another at half-back.

Alex Corbisiero and Salesi Ma’afu come in for Alex Waller and Gareth Denman respectively, with Tom Wood swapping places with Sam Dickinson in the back row. Wood, who marked his 100th first team appearance last week with a try, also captains the team. Meanwhile Kahn Fotuali’i replaces Lee Dickson at scrum-half in a direct swap.

Form: Gloucester’s last four games in Aviva Premiership Rugby have all been won by the home side on the day. Gloucester have won all five games played at Kingsholm in all tournaments in 2015. Northampton Saints only Aviva Premiership Rugby defeat since round 7 came on a visit to Sale on 10th January. The Saints six try bonus points in Premiership Rugby this season were all achieved in the first twelve rounds. Northampton have won their last two encounters with Gloucester in Aviva Premiership Rugby, but both of those games were played at Franklin’s Gardens. At Kingsholm, the Saints’ only win in their last four visits in the tournament was 24-19 in the opening round of the 2012/13 season.

The teams:

Gloucester: 15 Steve McColl, 14 Charlie Sharples, 13 Bill Meakes, 12 Billy Twelvetrees (c), 11 Jonny May, 10 James Hook, 9 Greig Laidlaw, 8 Gareth Evans, 7 Matt Kvesic, 6 Sione Kalamafoni, 5 Tom Palmer, 4 Tom Savage, 3 John Afoa, 2 Richard Hibbard, 1 Dan Murphy
Replacements: 16 Darren Dawidiuk, 17 Yann Thomas, 18 Sila Puafisi, 19 Elliott Stooke, 20 Ross Moriarty, 21 Dan Robson, 22 Billy Burns, 23 Henry Purdy

Northampton Saints: 15 James Wilson, 14 Ken Pisi, 13 George Pisi, 12 Tom Stephenson, 11 Jamie Elliott, 10 Stephen Myler, 9 Kahn Fotuali'i, 8 Samu Manoa, 7 Calum Clark, 6 Tom Wood (c), 5 Christian Day, 4 Courtney Lawes, 3 Salesi Ma'afu, 2 Mike Haywood, 1 Alex Corbisiero
Replacements: 16 Matti Williams, 17 Alex Waller, 18 Gareth Denman, 19 Sam Dickinson, 20 Phil Dowson, 21 Lee Dickson, 22 Sam Olver, 23 Ahsee Tuala

Date: Saturday, 7 March
Venue: Kingsholm
Kick-off: 15.15 GMT
Referee: Greg Garner
Assistant referees: Kelvin Stewart & Ashley Rowden
TMO: David Grashoff