Wasps tackle resurgent Saints
November 4, 2011
The return of England's Chris Ashton and his fellow World Cup stars has boosted Northampton © Getty Images
London Wasps have rediscovered their encouraging early-season form but their revival faces a stern examination this weekend as they host the free-scoring Northampton Saints.
After opening their Aviva Premiership campaign by first upsetting reigning champions Saracens at Wembley and then defeating last season's runners-up Leicester at home, Wasps suffered a dramatic slump in form. However, back-to-back victories over Bath and Worcester have seen them rise back up to fifth in the standings. Victory this weekend would almost certainly push them into the play-off places.
Northampton, though, are arguably the form team in England at the minute. The Saints started the season horribly but, with their international stars back within their ranks, they have won four games on the bounce in all competitions. Not only that, Jim Mallinder's side scored over 30 points in all four of those triumphs. Wasps have been warned.
London Wasps - Player to Watch: As the man who makes Wasps tick, Nicky Robinson will have a major say on who comes out on top at Adams Park. His battle with former Gloucester No.10 Ryan Lamb will be fascinating.
London Wasps - Team News: There is just one change to the side which battled past Worcester, with Rob Webber getting the nod at hooker with Steve Thompson having been ruled out with a knock he picked up at Sixways.
Northampton Saints - Player to Watch: England wing Chris Ashton is unashamed showman so one imagines that he will be going all out to mark his 100th appearance for the Saints with something spectacular.
Northampton Saints - Team News: Just two changes in personnel for the Saints, who routed Newcastle last weekend. Mark Sorenson comes into the second row for Samu Manoa, while the return of Roger Wilson at No.8 sees Phil Dowson switch to openside flanker and Tom Wood drop out. Both Manoa and Wood have been named amongst the replacements.
Key Battle: It might not decide the game but Christian Wade's head-to-head with Vasily Artemyev is likely to be explosive. Wade is the Premiership's top try-scorer this season, with six. However, Northampton's new Russian wing has already scored six in his first three appearances for the Saints.
Trivia: Wasps are bidding for their third win on the spin in the Premiership, something they have not done for 12 months
Stats: Northampton have won their last three games against Wasps, including a first ever win at Adams Park, last season
"I have a lot of respect for Northampton and they are going to be a huge challenge for us. They have one of the best scrums in Europe and we are going to be massively tested in that department."
"Wasps have started the season well and shown they can compete at the top end of the Premiership table. They have also had some excellent results against the likes of Saracens and Worcester."
Prediction: It's going to be close but we're tipping the Saints to make it five wins on the bounce in all competitions.
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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
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