Saints out to seal last eight spot
January 13, 2011
Joe Ansbro starts for Northampton in place of the injured Chris Ashton © Getty Images
Northampton Saints can book their place in the last eight of the Heineken Cup on Friday with victory over Edinburgh at Franklin's Gardens.
The Saints are currently six points clear of second-placed Castres and regardless of the result in the French side's clash with the Blues in Cardiff, a bonus-point win will see them into the quarter-finals.
Edinburgh picked up their first win of the campaign last time out, seeing off the group's Top 14 representatives at Murrayfield, and they have little to lose in the final rounds of action after picking up losing bonus points in their three reversals to date.
Northampton - Player to Watch: Joe Ansbro starts in the No.14 jersey in place of the injured Chris Ashton and the Scotland international will be keen to impress against his countrymen with the Six Nations looming.
Northampton - Team News: Ansbro is joined in the starting line-up by Calum Clark following a long-term injury to England lock Courtney Lawes, while Ryan Powell continues in harness with Stephen Myler at halfback in place of the injured Lee Dickson.
Edinburgh - Player to Watch: The abrasive Ross Rennie starts at openside and will offer something different to the Saints' athletic Tom Wood. The breakdown battle will be vital after Northampton's superb counter-rucking against Leicester last weekend.
Edinburgh - Team News: Rob Moffat has made six changes from the side beaten by the Scarlets last time out. Jim Thompson replaces Lee Jones on the wing while Ben Cairns partners Nick De Luca in midfield. Up front, Kyle Traynor starts at loose-head, Esteban Lozada in the second-row and skipper Roddy Grant at No.8. Rennie replaces Stuart McInally, with Alan MacDonald moving to blindside.
Key Battle: The Saints will look for their usual brand of forward power and Edinburgh must hold their own at scrum and lineout in order to get guarantee enough possession to hurt their hosts as they did in a 31-27 loss at Murrayfield back in round two.
Trivia: Edinburgh have one survivor from their famous 23-22 win over the reigning champion Saints at Franklin's Gardens back in the 2000-01 season, fullback Chris Paterson.
Stats: The teams have met on five occasions in Europe, with their victory at Murrayfield earlier this season swinging the ledger in favour of the Saints, three wins to two.
"We had to cope without the internationals in November and we will have to do so again over the next few weeks. We have to plan for the possibility of injuries and have put together a squad that we believe has the depth necessary to compete." - Saints boss Jim Mallinder has faith in his squad.
"When you go to a place like Northampton, it's always nice to look back through the history books and see you've won there before, but that game was a long time ago and I'm sure that everyone in this team wants to register an achievement of their own." - Edinburgh coach Rob Moffat
Prediction: Edinburgh will travel in hope but Northampton will want to wrap up qualification in style. Comfortable home win.
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