Northampton Saints v Newcastle Falcons, Aviva Premiership, October 29
Saints primed to add to Falcons' woes
ESPNscrum Staff
October 28, 2011
Northampton wing Chris Ashton offloads in the tackle, Ospreys v Northampton Saints, Anglo-Welsh Cup, Brewery Field, Bridgend, Wales, October 22, 2011
Saints were buoyed by the return of Chris Ashton and his England team-mates last weekend © Getty Images

After ending a run of three successive defeats in the Aviva Premiership with victory over Exeter last time out, Northampton will be intent of pulling clear of the relegation zone when they meet Newcastle Falcons at Franklin's Gardens on Saturday.

The Saints struggled horribly without their international contingent but with the likes of Ben Foden, Chris Ashton and Courtney Lawes all having returned to first-team duty in last weekend's Anglo-Welsh Cup triumph over the Ospreys, Jim Mallinder's side now looks poised to really kick-start their campaign.

Certainly, they will be confident of despatching a Falcons side which has just won just once in the league this term. However, that sole success did come earlier this month, against Wasps, and Newcastle did impress in hammering Cardiff on the opening weekend of this year's Anglo-Welsh Cup so it is not all doom and gloom at Kingston Park. Still, it will be a major surprise if they get anything out of a replenished Northampton line-up.

Northampton Saints - Player to Watch: Vasily Artemyev has made a remarkable start to his Saints career having crossed the line for a hat-trick on his debut. The Russian flyer has the perfect foil in Chris Ashton on the other flank so expect Artemyev to see lots of ball come Saturday.

Northampton Saints - Team News: Ben Foden takes the fullback reins and is flanked by Ashton and Artemyev. Jon Clarke lines up at outside centre alongside veteran Tom May while Ryan Lamb is preferred at fly-half to Stephen Myler with Lee Dickson starting at scrum-half. Phil Dowson gets the nod at No.8 with Tom Wood and Calum Clark joining him in the back-row. Courtney Lawes and Samu Manoa start in the second-row with Brian Mujati, Dylan Hartley and Soane Tonga'uiha forming the front-row.

Newcastle Falcons - Player to Watch: Rikki Sheriffe is making a name for himself on Tyneside with a series of impressive performances on the wing despite the Falcons poor Premiership position. If given the chance, Sheriffe will make yards so expect him to shine come Saturday.

Newcastle Falcons - Team News: Corne Uys is handed the No. 13 jersey as he continues to impress club bosses following his recent move from South Africa and his return sees Luke Eves move to the wing to cover for the injured Luke Fielden who is out of action for three months with a shoulder injury. Kiwi Jimmy Gopperth gets the nod at fly-half with fellow countryman Jeremy Manning moving to fullback. Ally Hogg will continue to skipper the side as James Hudson serves the last of his four-week ban.

Key Battle: Euan Murray is up against Soane Tonga'uiha in what promises to be a ferocious tussle in the front-row. Both have a wealth of experience and with the pair experiencing mixed World Cups - they will be glad to be back in the colours of their club side.

Trivia: The Falcons' most recent away victory in the Premiership came at Leeds Carnegie on February 27 2011

Stats: The Falcons have scored just 99 points this season - only Worcester, with 88, have accumulated less.

Quote Unquote:

"Newcastle are going to come down here and give it everything they've got. We know that they've come down here in recent years, given us frights and won here. They've got some good players and we've got to make sure we're at our very best"
- Saints coach Jim Mallinder is wary of a Falcons backlash on Saturday.

"They are a good side and we are going to add some squad members to it - so we will get stronger and there will be competition for places which is always good."
- Falcons boss Alan Tait is in bullish mood prior to the clash with the Saints

Prediction: The Saints have their World Cup players back and that will be enough to lead them to a convincing win.

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

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