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Preview: Northampton Saints v Harlequins Preview: Northampton Saints v Harlequins

Preview: Northampton Saints v Harlequins

Harlequins fly-half Ben Botica insists its make or break this weekend against Northampton Saints in Aviva Premiership Rugby if his side are to secure a top-four spot come May.

Quins are presently in sixth position in the table, one place and two points behind Northampton but Botica is convinced a defeat at Franklin's Gardens could spell the end of a play-off dream.

Harlequins have won just two of their last nine fixtures in all competitions – both at Twickenham Stoop in Aviva Premiership Rugby, against Leicester Tigers and Bath Rugby.

Quins have lost their last four away games in the tournament since beating Worcester Warriors 24-20 at Sixways in round 8, while the Saints have won their last six fixtures against Harlequins in all tournaments.

To make matters worse, the visitors have not won at Franklin's Gardens since an 18-9 victory in December but Botica is refusing to feel anything other than positive ahead of the trip to Northampton.

“We literally have to put in a performance this weekend, if we don’t we have made it pretty much impossible for ourselves to get into the top four,” said Botica.

“The boys know where we are at, we have to go to Franklin's and win – it’s a bit of an uphill battle but we can still do it.

“We will have to put our front foot forward and really take it to them – that’s the key.

“As everyone knows, Saints have one hell of a forward pack – their maul is very strong and when they start getting guys around the corner and getting a roll on they are very hard to stop. We will look to keep the ball infield and run those big boys around a bit.”

Northampton Saints' three-game winning run in Aviva Premiership Rugby ended at Exeter Chiefs on Sunday.

The Saints only defeat in any competition at Franklin's Gardens since early November was 24-11 to Wasps in January.

And England full-back Ben Foden has promised the Saints will learn from their second-half capitulation last week against Exeter at Sandy Park.

“The wind played a big part in it, but discipline let us down,” said Foden. “I don’t know what the penalty count was but there seemed to be a lot for them and not many for us (Saints conceded ten penalties during the second half, with Exeter conceding none).

“With the wind behind them, they played the corners and made us play out of our own half.

“Our ill discipline cost us in the end. They managed to build a score, catch us and overtake us – it’s as simple as that really.

“At the end of the first half, we really needed to put another score on the board. We needed to put that distance between us.

“With only nine points between us at half-time, they were still very much in the game and they managed to haul themselves back into it to get the win.

“We’re disappointed not to get anything from the game. It’s not reflective of the performance we put in.”

Franklin’s Gardens, 3.15pm – Live on BT Sport

Referee: Tim Wigglesworth (105th Premiership game).
Assistant Referees: Wayne Falla & Paul Burton. TMO: Graham Hughes.

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