Saints stars back to business
March 25, 2011
Chris Ashton returns to the Northampton side © Getty Images
Having ended their nightmare run of defeats, Northampton this weekend turn their attention to Wasps and cementing their place in the Aviva Premiership play-offs.
The Saints saw off basement boys Leeds last time out to end a run of six straight defeats but are not out of the woods yet, with the chasing pack nipping at their heels.
Wasps are currently down in eighth position and will want to drag their season back onto the right track, with Heineken Cup qualification an obvious objective.
Northampton - Player to Watch: After a few weeks without a try and with England's Grand Slam slump only a week old, Chris Ashton will be eager to get back to his best form.
Northampton - Team News: The Saints have wasted no time in recalling their stars, with Ashton joined in the starting line-up by fullback Ben Foden, hooker Dylan Hartley and flanker Tom Wood after England duty. Wood starts at openside, with Phil Dowson moving back to the No.6 jersey.
Wasps - Player to Watch: With England No.9 Ben Youngs struggling for his best form there is an opportunity for Wasps scrum-half Joe Simpson to stake a claim for international honours.
Wasps - Team News: Hooker Rob Webber returns for his first start since-mid November with Joe Ward dropping to the bench. Elsewhere there are also re-calls for prop Zak Taulafo and centre Steve Kefu while lock Simon Shaw returns from a successful international campaign with England to take his place in the second-row alongside captain Richard Birkett.
Key Battle: The Saints have their first-choice back-row on display once again and they will be keen to generate the breakdown dominance that characterised their early-season form.
Trivia: Wasps haven't beaten the Saints on their home track since November 2005.
Stats: Northampton winger Paul Diggin has six tries to his name so far this season, one less than table-toppers Topsy Ojo and Manu Tuilagi.
""It wasn't just a victory, but a much better performance against Leeds. We got our basics right and dominated up front. We played aggressively and took our opportunities well. - Northampton boss Jim Mallinder
"The game against Northampton this weekend marks the start of a crucial period for us in the Premiership starting with two away games against Northampton and London Irish before we welcome Leeds to Adams Park and head to Twickenham for our St George's Day Game. We must take every game on its own merits but a good run of results in this block of fixtures will define our season." - Wasps interim director of rugby Leon Holden throws down the gauntlet
Fantasy: Northampton have recalled Ashton to their side, is the England winger in your ESPNscrum Fantasy Rugby Game team?
Prediction: With their losing run over and their big names back on deck, Northampton should take this one against a decidedly mid-table Wasps outfit.
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
The reopening of the openside debate, a dominant wolf-pack and a sublime performance in defeat - Monday Maul looks at the weekend's talking points
The latest Week in Pictures takes in the Rugby Championship alongside the best photographs from around the domestic game
Amy Perrett, the Australian referee who whistled the Women's Rugby World Cup final after handling only six Tests, talks to Jamie Lyall
John Griffiths digs into the distant past to try to establish the identity of an England international whose life is a virtual mystery