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Preview: Northampton Saints v London Irish

Preview: Northampton Saints v London Irish

London Irish may have only won three Aviva Premiership Rugby games this season but they have the chance to do the double over Northampton Saints this weekend.

And Exiles lock Jebb Sinclair says his side are quietly confident that a Saints side high on their last-ditch victory over Harlequins last week will not have it their own way at Franklin’s Gardens.

There’s no point looking into recent history – Saints’ last three games have been won by the away side.

On the flip side, Irish’s last six fixtures have been won by the home side, but Sinclair wants his side to build on a morale-boosting victory over Worcester Warriors last time out.

“We are going into the belly of the beast in Northampton,” he said. “They didn’t start that great considering their ambitions, but they have picked up and so we have had to ramp it up another level.

“It wasn’t that long ago that we beat them at the Madejski, so there will be a lot of confidence we can take to Franklin’s Gardens, but it is one of the hardest places to go.

“But historically, over the last three or four years we have played very well at Franklin’s Gardens and we know that we can compete with them over 80 minutes.”

Saints are almost perennial top-four challengers, though they face a battle to get back into the mix this season, seven points behind fourth-place Harlequins at the season’s halfway stage.

And Northampton second-row James Craig insists his side are not contemplating the thought of another defeat between now and the end of the season.

“We can’t afford many slip-ups from now on but you can’t look at that and think we have to win every game,” said Craig. “We have to take it week to week, prepare as well as possible and train as well as possible.

“We can’t look at it and say we have got 11 games and we have to win them all, because that is a daunting prospect.

“They have certainly developed their forward play – their scrum, maul and lineout have definitely improved. A new set of coaches has altered their style of play and in their European games they have ripped a few sides to shreds.

“We have looked at Irish but the focus has been more on ourselves. If we do what we want to do and make sure we are on top of our game, hopefully it will be a positive result.”

(Franklin’s Gardens, 3pm)
Referee: Tim Wigglesworth (101st Premiership game).
Assistant Referees: Nigel Carrick & Wayne Falla. TMO: Sean Davey.

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