Irish primed for Saints showdown
April 22, 2011
Delon Armitage and London Irish cannot afford any mistakes this weekend © Getty Images
It's make-or-break time for London Irish as they welcome fourth-placed Northampton Saints to the Madjeski Stadium on Saturday.
The Exiles currently sit fifth in the Aviva Premiership table, four points adrift of the Saints, so nothing less than a victory will suffice for the home side. Toby Booth's men are, at least, in good form, having won their last six games at home in all competitions.
There is also a chance that Northampton will arrive in Reading a tad jaded given that this is their third outing in eight days. However, the Saints left a number of their key men on the bench for the midweek defeat by Gloucester and, besides, they will take heart from the fact that they have won their last four Premiership meetings with Irish.
London Irish - Player to Watch: Steffon Armitage's future with the Exiles remains uncertain, but the England openside will have to knuckle down if they are to combat a competitive Saints back-row.
London Irish - Team News: Clarke Dermody returns to the front-row at loose-head, with South African Faan Rautenbach on the other side of the scrum.
Northampton Saints - Player to Watch: Chris Ashton returns on the wing and will want to ensure that the Saints do not come up short in attack against an Irish side with the capacity to score from anywhere.
Northampton Saints - Team News: Along with Ashton, Ben Foden, Lee Dickson, Stephen Myler, Phil Dowson and the front-row of Soane Tonga'uiha, Dylan Hartley and Brian Mujati all return.
Key Battle: The boots of Tom Homer and Myler will undoubtedly have an impact. The Saints have looked shaky this season when their kicker hasn't fired, and Homer is deadly from the tee.
Trivia: London Irish have won more rucks (1060) than any other side in this season's Premiership.
Stats: Exiles fullback Delon Armitage leads the way in terms of metres gained by a single player this term, with 738.
"The whole squad knows what is at stake on Saturday and they will be going out there to put in a performance to be proud of in front of our loyal supporters." - London Irish coach Toby Booth
"We came literally within a couple of inches of getting something out of the game against Gloucester on Tuesday, and all of the players have been determined to go one better at the Madejski Stadium and regain the momentum which we had built up over the past month or so." - Northampton boss Jim Mallinder.
Fantasy: Gloucester back-row Luke Narraway has racked up an impressive 68 points in this season's ESPNscrum Fantasy Rugby Game. There's still time to add him to you side.
Prediction: The Saints had a major wobble earlier on this year, but don't expect them to falter when in sight of the play-offs. Away win.
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
"Gentlemen, if you want to see the World Cup going south yet again, you are going the right way about it," John Taylor looks at the state of European rugby
The Heineken Cup proved once again just why it is the best domestic rugby competition in the world at the weekend and Monday Maul picks out some of the key talking points
The latest Week in Pictures brings you a selection of the best snaps from around the rugby world with scantily clad ladies, O'Driscoll and snow all featuring