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Preview: Northampton Saints v Wasps

Preview: Northampton Saints v Wasps

Northampton Saints may be setting a fearsome pace in pursuit of an Aviva Premiership Rugby home semi-final but centre Tom Stephenson insists his side will have to be wary of Wasps’ own speedsters on Friday.

With just one defeat in the last ten rounds of Aviva Premiership Rugby, Jim Mallinder’s side have opened a gap on the chasing pack and hold a nine-point lead over nearest rivals Exeter Chiefs.

While Wasps secured an impressive 20-16 triumph over Saints in the reverse fixture in September, the hosts will go into Friday’s encounter at Franklin’s Gardens knowing history is firmly on their side.

The visitors are heading to Northampton in search of their first league double over Saints for a decade, with Wasps’ last triumph at Franklin’s Gardens coming in November 2005.

But with Christian Wade and Elliot Daly in stellar form in recent games and a pack to challenge the best in the league, Stephenson admits Wasps will be fired up to end their Northampton hoodoo.

“Wasps are in great form,” he said. “This is the last push towards the semi-finals and we have got to get a home semi.

“They have been going really well – Christian Wade and Elliot Daly especially – and they are just starting to find some great form.

“They beat us early in the season so we are looking forward to them coming back here and they will come here full of confidence.

“They have got dangerous backs and a powerful pack as well, with James Haskell coming back from England duty. We are going to have to front up and hopefully take care of ourselves when we have the ball.”

While Wasps’ away form remains erratic, Dai Young’s side have notched up the most tries in Aviva Premiership Rugby this season with 60.

Yet with Saints conceding the joint-fewest points of any side this campaign, Wasps prop Matt Mullan believes the battle between two dominant packs will be crucial, before attention turns to the final run in.

“Any game against Northampton, whether it’s home or away, it pretty tough,” he said. “We know it’s going to be a huge ask to get a win but that’s the sort of game you want to be involved in.

“As a forward in particular you are expecting a tough battle up front – but they also have the ability to move the ball quickly and score some fantastic tries.

“We have got people that can cut teams up but it is a question of getting enough ball and getting a platform, while they have threats all over the pitch.

“As long as you use the break wisely then I think you can be in the best position to attack these last few games.

“If you are not in those cup games, you get a chance to rest up and prepare. I think it’s probably a good thing for us to be able to recuperate.”

Northampton Saints v Wasps (Franklin’s Gardens, 7.45pm)
Live on BT Sport

Referee: Craig Maxwell-Keys (3rd Premiership game).
Assistant Referees: Simon McConnell and Nigel Carrick. TMO: Keith Lewis

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