Saints look to stop the rot
September 29, 2011
Dale Rasmussen captains Worcester in their clash on Friday © Getty Images
Worcester Warriors entertain Northampton on Friday evening looking to their first victory since the opening day of the 2011-12 Aviva Premiership season.
Richard Hill's side narrowly lost out to league leaders Harlequins last weekend thanks to a late penalty try but there were plenty of positives in the 17-15 reverse for the Midlands side. Andy Goode contributed all 15 points for Hill's men and he has already made a storming contribution in their campaign. Central to Worcester's start to the season is their continued ability to frustrate sides and make them work extremely hard to cross the line. Despite their 18-6 loss to champions Saracens, Worcester were much closer in terms of territory and possession than the result suggests.
Northampton meanwhile have failed to live up to their impressive 2010-11 campaign. They took the opening clash of the 2011-12 season against Gloucester thanks to a late Ryan Lamb penalty but since then they have fallen to Harlequins, London Irish and Sale. Coach Jim Mallinder will hope his side - who are missing a host of players due to the World Cup - possess enough in the tank to bounce back at Sixways on Friday.
Worcester - Player to Watch: Neil Best will hope to make an impact against his former side and has impressed throughout the season thus far. The bullish flanker will have the youngster Ben Nutley in his sights come Friday evening.
Worcester - Team News: Chris Jones is handed the No.8 spot after Kai Horstmann sustained a hamstring injury. Ed Shervington will play at hooker alongside Matt Mullan and Tevita Teumoepeau while Craig Gillies takes the second-row spot alongside James Percival. Oliver Tomaszczyk is named among the replacements for the first time while Adam Balding and Tom Arscott earn call-ups after turning out for the Worcester Cavaliers at the start of the week.
Northampton Saints - Player to Watch: Lee Dickson makes his first start of the season for the Saints and he will look to ignite a Saints backline which has prevailed just once this campaign. The tenacious and dogged half-back has the ability to change the game in favour of his side and Mallinder will hope this happens come Friday.
Northampton Saints - Team News: Greig Tonks comes into the side at fullback in place of Jon Clarke with the utility back shifting to outside centre. Tom May will have to settle for a spot on the bench while Scott Armstrong starts on the left wing in place of Noah Cato. Lee Dickson makes his return to the Saints side in place of Martin Roberts who will sit alongside May with the other replacements.
Key Battle: Samu Manoa will have his hands full against Craig Gillies in the second-row. In a match which can be decided by one turned over set-piece, the lineout will be a key facet of the game.
Trivia: Northampton's fly-half Stephen Myler is currently second in the accuracy stakes with a kicking percentage of 88.24%. Nick Evans leads the table with an impressive rate of 91.30%.
Stats: The Saints have won their last four clashes with the Warriors, and in fact have only been defeated once at Sixways in seven previous games in all competitions - on their very first visit in April 2005
"Chris Jones is battled hardened from this season and is an international pedigree player who has excelled in this position before with Sale. He can help us pressurise Northampton's renowned set piece and driving lineout."
"Sixways is a tough place to play and Worcester have had a promising start to the season. Richard Hill has put together a squad that is full of power and experience as well as pace out wide that can potentially cause us problems."
Prediction: The Saints have made a poor start to the season by their high standards and will hope to make amends against Worcester. However, with the Sixways faithful behind them, expect the Warriors to take the match by less than three points with late drop-goal attempts aplenty.
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
As Ray McLoughlin prepares to celebrate his 75th birthday, Huw Richards pays tribute to the man and the selectors who had the wisdom to bring him into the Ireland fold
John Taylor argues the world's best XVs players must be given a chance to play in the Olympics to increase the appeal of the game
The All Blacks' form is not a peaking issue, but Hansen must threaten to wield his axe, to demand improvement, Craig Dowd writes
"It has been the World Cup that smashed down the gender barriers of the sport." Tom Hamilton looks back at a remarkable tournament