Northampton Saints v Saracens, Aviva Premiership, February 12
Saints out to get back on track
ESPNscrum Staff
February 8, 2011
Northampton's Ben Foden and Soane Tonga'uiha face upto defeat, Northampton v Harlequins, Aviva Premiership, Franklin's Gardens, Northampton, England, January 1, 2010
Northampton have slipped in recent weeks © Getty Images
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Tournaments/Tours: Aviva Premiership

Northampton Saints are out to get their Aviva Premiership campaign back on track on Saturday with a challenging tie against second-placed Saracens at Franklin's Gardens.

Having led the way for most of the season to date, back-to-back defeats have seen the Saints slip behind Sarries and Leicester in the table, although they do possess games in hand on their rivals.

Having booked their passage into the last eight of the Heineken Cup as top seeds they will want to keep the feel-good factor alive and redress the balance against a Sarries side always spoiling for a fight.

Northampton - Player to Watch: Stephen Myler has been preferred to the more dynamic Shane Geraghty at No.10 so the pressure is on him to guide the Saints to victory.

Northampton - Team News: Meyler's recall sees Geraghty drop to the bench in the only change to the back-line which started against Leeds last weekend. Up front, though, Calum Clark comes into the back row, while Christian Day and Dan Vickerman return to the second row.

Saracens - Player to Watch: Young fly-half Owen Farrell is beginning to look like the real deal but it will interesting to see how he handles what is arguably the biggest game of Saracens' season so far.

Saracens - Team News: Sarries recall front-row duo Schalk Brits and Carlos Nieto, as well as blindside flanker Justin Melck for the trip to Franklin's Gardens. England Saxons duo Brad Barritt and Andy Saull have both been named in the 22, but while the former starts, at inside centre, the latter has to make dow with a seat on the bench. Also named among the replacements is Michael Tagicakibau, who has been out of action for three weeks with a hamstring problem.

Key Battle: The front-row fireworks should be worth the admission fee alone, with Rhys Gill, Brits, Nieto set to lock horns with Saints trio Soane Tonga'uiha, Brett Sharman and Brian Mujati. Boths sides will know that the outcome of this particular battle for set-piece superiority could be pivotal so expect carnage.

Trivia: Saracens have won their last four meetings with Northampton in all competitions and have also won on four of their last six Premiership trips to the Gardens.

Stats: Saracens have made 1323 tackles so far this season, the second highest number for any side.

Quote Unquote:

"It's a big game. We know where we are in the league and we know where Saracens are, in a very similar position to us. We also know that if we win we will have four league points, and that's a massive motivation for us." - Northampton boss Jim Mallinder

Fantasy: Saracens No.10 Farrell has had a productive recent spell with the boot, worth a look in your ESPNscrum's Fantasy Rugby Game team?

Prediction: On paper, there is very little to choose between the two sides but Saints perhaps just have that extra bit of class which should see them edge a fiercely-contested encounter.

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

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