Crunch clash at Kingsholm
April 19, 2011
Northampton's Ben Foden has been left on the bench in spite of his try-scoring heroics against Newcastle © Getty Images
Third-place Gloucester tackle fourth-place Northampton Saints at Kingsholm on Tuesday as the race for the play-off places hots up.
Both teams have a game in hand over the chasing London Irish, but will be determined to secure their top-four place and maintain their momentum with three games remaining before the play-offs.
The Saints are flying high after progressing to the Heineken Cup semi-finals and recording a last-gasp 22-15 win over Newcastle in the Premiership in recent weeks. Gloucester displayed similar fighting spirit as they came from behind to draw 41-41 with leaders Leicester Tigers in a thrilling game at Welford Road on Saturday.
Gloucester - Player to Watch: Freddie Burns lined out at fly-half against Leicester, contributing 16 points with the boot, but the 20-year-old reverts to fullback for the visit of Northampton.
Gloucester - Team News: With his side in action for the second time in four days, Gloucester boss Bryan Redpath has made wholesale changes to the side which drew with Leicester. Freddie Burns, Eliota Fuimaono-Sapolu, Jonny May and Dave Attwood are the only survivors from the side which started at Welford Road. Nicky Robinson, Rory Lawson and Luke Narraway, who will skipper the side, are among those to have been recalled.
Northampton - Player to Watch: Joe Ansbro returns to the Saints midfield on Tuesday night, at outside centre, and Northampton will be hoping that he can rediscover the kind of form he showed for Scotland in their Six Nations clash with Scotland in February.
Northampton - Team News: Like Gloucester, Northampton have also rung the changes. Bruce Reihana, who has been moved from the wing to fullback, and Calum Clark, who will skipper the side, are the only two players to have retained their places in the starting line-up.
Key Battle: Both sides have changed their fly-halves for the game at Kingsholm, with Gloucester recalling Nicky Robinson and Northampton giving Shane Geraghty a chance to impress. Both men will be determined to shine and the outcome of their head-to-head will be crucial to the outcome of the game.
Trivia: Gloucester's victory at Franklin's Gardens in round 16 ended a four-game losing streak against Saints in all competitions.
Stats: Northampton triumphed on their most recent visit to Kingsholm, 27-14 on September 19, 2009.
"To be competitive against Northampton and Saracens in the next seven days we need to defend better and make sure we carry that same hunger with us." - Gloucester boss Bryan Redpath raises the bar for his side
"We will need to perform well if we want to bring anything home. Gloucester showed plenty of character and quality in coming back to draw at Welford Road on Saturday, and Kingsholm is always a difficult place to play." - Northampton director of rugby Jim Mallinder
Fantasy: Gloucester's Luke Narraway is the third highest points-scoring back-row in this season's ESPNscrum Fantasy Rugby Game. Is he in your team?
Prediction: Northampton appear to be over the mid-season slump but Gloucester will be buzzing after their dramatic draw at Welford Road and home advantage should decide a tight affair in their favour.
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