Saints out to heap more misery on Exiles
September 14, 2011
New recruit Ryan Lamb kicked a late penalty against Gloucester © Getty Images
London Irish face a testing away trip to Northampton Saints as they go in search of a first Aviva Premiership win of the season.
Tony Booth's side slipped to a 29-24 defeat to Harlequins at Twickenham on the opening day of the season despite two tries from winger Topsy Ojo. That was followed by a 30-29 defeat to Sale Sharks Edgeley Park and, despite emphasising the youth of his side on both occassions, Booth was inrcreasingly frustrated with their inability to win tight games.
Meanwile former London Irish fly-half Ryan Lamb came off the bench for Northampton to kick a late penalty against Gloucseter and ensure the Saints began the season with a 26-24 victory. However, they were in action only five days later and the short turnaround did not aid their cause against the Quins - a game they lost 26-13.
Northampton Saints - Player to Watch: Summer signing Ryan Lamb gets his first chance to impress from the off this weekend, having been forced to play second fiddle to Stephen Myler for the first two rounds of the new season. Consequently, the former Gloucester fly-half will be determined to impress.
Northampton Saints - Team News: The Saints make three changes in personnel to the side beaten by Harlequins last weekend. Behind the scrum, Jon Clarke switches to fullback, taking the place of Greig Tonks, and that allows Tom May to move into midfield and Paul Diggin to return on the right wing. As already mentioned, Lamb has been preferred to Myler at fly-half. The two changes to the pack both come in the front-row, with Brett Sharman taking over at hooker from Andy Long and Tom Mercey replacing Brian Mujati at tight-head prop.
London Irish - Player to Watch: Former All Black second-row Bryn Evans has been named on the bench for the game at Franklin's Gardens and it will be interesting to see what impact he makes when sprung from the bench. Certainly, big things are expected of the former Hurricane.
London Irish - Team News: The Exiles make two changes after their defeat at Edgeley Park, with Adam Thompston earning a start on the left wing and Ed Siggery coming into the side at blindside flanker. Adam Thompstone will start on the wing after coming off the bench last weekend. Ed Siggery will start his first competitive game for London Irish at blindside flanker.
Key Battle: Phil Dowson's head-to-head with Exiles No.8 Chris Hala'ufia promises to be a real heavyweight clash, with both men certain to be intent on providing their respective sides with some serious go-forward ball. Expect some heavy collisions between these two.
Trivia: In 35 meetings, these two sides have never played out a draw.
Stats: London Irish fullback Tom Homer has landed 12 kicks already this term.
"Irish have played well in their two games so far and I believe that they are in a bit of a false position in the Premiership table. So we will have to play well throughout Saturday's game."
"We have been competitive in the opening two games and there have been positives to come out of them; however, we want to be winning close encounters when they are there for the taking."
Prediction: The Saints have been far from convincing to date but they remain a tough nut to crack at home and should inflict a third successive narrow defeat upon the Exiles.
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
As Scotland decides its future, Scrum Sevens looks at a group of players who transcended rugby both for country and the British & Irish Lions
Ahead of November's USA-All Blacks match, America's ESPN Magazine explains rugby to its readers who may not be familiar with the game
Tom Hamilton talks to World Cup-winning captain John Smit about life after rugby, his fears over the South African exodus and the World Cup