Decimated by international call-ups for the Six Nations, Northampton Saints boss Jim Mallinder has called on his troops left behind to reignite their Aviva Premiership charge at home to Bath Rugby this weekend.
Saints have been in the top half of the Aviva Premiership for the whole season so far, winning nine out of their 15 matches, and but for the width of a crossbar they would have an identical win/loss record to Saracens, currently in second place.
But Northampton Saints have won just two of their last five Aviva Premiership matches, those were against Exeter Chiefs and Worcester Warriors, with their only win in their last four Premiership contests at Franklin's Gardens was a 23-16 victory over London Welsh on November 24.
But Mallinder has been cheered this week by the news Saints will have both Lee Dickson and Ben Foden available, while Brian Mujati is fit to return.
“Ben Foden is available,” said Mallinder. “He’s been returned and he’s been training so he’s raring to go.
“I was pleased with him last week. After his week off he really came and his performance was really up a notch. Hopefully that will go up another notch this week.
“Brian Mujati is also now back. He’s available for the weekend. He’s trained this week so it’s fantastic to have him back.
“It gives us options. We’re not complaining. You always want all your best players available.
“We’ve got some difficult games to come and we’ll need all of our squad and all of our tightheads playing well and ready for the rest of the season.”
Since the turn of the year Bath have just about had the best form in the country, winning six matches in succession in the Aviva Premiership, the LV= Cup and Amlin Challenge Cup.
Five of those six matches may have been at The Rec, but Bath have made full use of their home advantage to see off Worcester and London Irish in the Aviva Premiership, Exeter in the LV= Cup and Agen and Bucharesti in the Amlin Challenge Cup.
However Bath has not beaten the Saints at Franklin's Gardens since 2000, but they did win a Premiership game at the famous old venue in November 2004, beating Saracens 37-30.
Stephen Donald and Francois Louw will be given as long as possible to be fit for this weekend’s Aviva Premiership trip to Franklin’s Gardens.
Fly-half Donald suffered cartilage damage to his ribs, while Louw has been struck down with a hip problem and face a race against time to be fit this weekend.
“Stephen is struggling and Flo is touch and go,” said head coach Gary Gold.
“We are hoping they are going to be ready for the weekend but both are struggling at the moment.
“Stephen is probably looking less likely to play than Flo but we will give them both until the Friday and wait and see.
“A popped rib is normally a couple of weeks out.”
Referee: Luke Pearce (11th Premiership game)
Assistant Referees: Robin Goodliffe & Ashley Rowden