Leeds v Northampton, Aviva Premiership, March 12
Downbeat Saints eye lift in spirits
March 11, 2011
Hendre Fourie returns for Leeds © Getty Images
Northampton travel to face Leeds on Saturday desperate to get their Aviva Premiership campaign back on track, but the Saints will face a home side revitalised by only their second league win of the season last time out.
Neil Back's Leeds overturned London Irish last weekend to ignite a glimmer of hope in their bid for survival and they will be keen to tear into a Saints side reeling after six straight league defeats and a hammering at the hands of Exeter.
A win for Northampton would propel them back into the top four ahead of Bath - this is a must-win game.
Leeds - Player to Watch: Hendre Fourie has been released by England and starts at openside, expect the South African-born flanker to tear into his work.
Leeds - Team News: Steve Thompson has been seconded by England, handing a start to youngster Scott Freer at hooker, while skipper Marco Wentzel misses out with a calf problem. His place in the second-row goes to Sean Hohneck and Juan Gomez is recalled at tight-head.
Northampton - Player to Watch: Shane Geraghty returns to the starting line-up but not in his preferred fly-half berth. The former England international takes the No.15 jersey and will be tasked with finding some game-breaking lines and interplay.
Northampton - Team News: Courtney Lawes could not influence the England side for this weekend's Calcutta clash with Scotland, but starts for the Saints alongside Christian Day. Phil Dowson again skippers the side from openside while Lee Dickson and Stephen Myler are paired at halfback.
Key Battle: The Leeds lineout is among the finest in the Premiership but with Lawes and Day back in the saddle the Saints will hope to cut off the home side at source.
Trivia: Northampton are currently on their poorest run of form since their relegation from the top flight in 2006-07.
Stats: The Saints have already beaten Leeds this season, in the Anglo-Welsh Cup, and have won their last four meetings with the Yorkshire side.
"I think the attitude of the squad belies where we are because of the strong connection we have. If you are in the 15, 23 or outside of that, you still contribute to success. Last week there were privileged guys who wore the shirt, but there are more than 23 guys in the squad and they all contribute." - Leeds boss Neil Back praises his side's squad ethic
"We played some good rugby in patches in the first half last week. Even though we made some mistakes we battled our way to a 9-3 lead at half-time and were in a good position, although some unfortunate mistakes in the second half saw us concede points." - Saints boss Jim Mallinder reflects on defeat to Exeter
Fantasy: Chris Ashton and Ben Foden may be missing from the Saints team but Paul Diggin has also been among the tries this season. Is he in your ESPNscrum Fantasy Rugby Game team?
Prediction: Northampton have been in dire form but should still have too much for Leeds, who will be desperate to prove that last weekend's win was no fluke.
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