Northampton v Scarlets, Heineken Cup, November 18, 2011
Saints look to close out Scarlets
November 17, 2011
Mark Sorensen is relishing the chance to right wrongs against the Scarlets%]
Northampton Saints will still be rocking from their last-gasp loss to Munster on Saturday and will be going all out to re-address the balance against the Scarlets.
Ronan O'Gara's last minute drop-goal broke Northampton hearts as Munster ran out 23-21 victors at Thomond Park. But the Saints know what it takes to reach the latter stages of the Heineken Cup having reached the tournament final last year only to be undone by a remarkable second-half comeback from Leinster. And with Jim Mallinder one of the early favourites to take the now vacant top post with England, Northampton will hope any backroom uncertainty is put to one side as they look to get their campaign back on track.
But lying in their wait is the impressive Scarlets who despatched Castres in the opening round of the tournament 31-23. They failed to secure the four-try bonus point but with the likes of George North, Rhys Priestland and Sean Lamont in their side, they possess enough fire-power to do away with even the most bullish of defences.
Northampton Saints - Player to Watch: One of the Scarlets' very few perceived weaknesses is in the second-row so Courtney Lawes will hope to cause havoc in that department. The England lock had a World Cup to forget and with the EPS due to be named in less than six weeks, he will hope to showcase his vast potential.
Northampton Saints - Team News: The Saints name an unchanged line-up for the clash with Dylan Hartley retaining the captaincy.
Scarlets - Player to Watch: All eyes will be on Wales fly-half Rhys Priestland as he takes the fly-half spot ahead of Stephen Jones. The young back was superb throughout the World Cup and Wales missed him greatly in their semi-final with France.
Scarlets - Team News: Rhys Priestland starts at fly-half for the Scarlets in place of Stephen Jones in one of three changes to the side which beat Castres. Sione Timani comes into the second-row in place of Dominic Day and Gareth Davies starts at scrum-half instead of Lloyd Williams who is suffering with illness.
Key Battle: Dylan Hartley is up against Matthew Rees at hooker with both aiming to prove a point after disappointing World Cups. Rees missed the tournament through injury while Hartley found himself playing second fiddle to Steve Thompson. With this in mind, expect the battle to be ferocious in the front-row.
Trivia: The Scarlets made it 100 matches in the Heineken Cup last week with George North, who was awarded man-of-the-match, taking his bow in the tournament.
Stats: Northampton edge the clashes between the two sides in the Heineken Cup having won three from the five match ups.
" Games like last Saturday's don't disappear from your mind straight away, but you learn very quickly in this game to move on. You have to move on to the next game, which for us is Friday night's game against the Scarlets."
"The effort, endeavour and commitment from all our players last weekend was evident, and we'll have to bring real belief, the ability to adapt our game and be sharp this weekend because it's going to be a big challenge."
Prediction: The Saints will be smarting from their first round loss against Munster and will bounce back with a narrow win
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