Aviva Premiership: Northampton v Exeter Preview

Aviva-Premiership-Northampton-versus-Exeter-Preview

The Northampton Saints take on the Exeter Chiefs in one of Saturday's headline Aviva Premiership clashes.

The plight of English club rugby this season is again evidenced by Northampton’s recent, rotten run. The Saints, sitting in a lowly 10th-place, coming off the back of five-consecutive losses, and head into this Saturday’s showdown with the table-toppers exceptionally low on confidence. The defending champion Chiefs, meanwhile, will back themselves to overturn their recent two-game losing streak in the Champions Cup and remain top of the Premiership pile going into Christmas.

Northampton Saints v Exeter Chiefs | Saturday 23 December | Franklin’s Gardens | 17:00


To Win (80 Mins)
Northampton 43/20 | Draw 18/1 | Exeter 4/10

Northampton
18-points. That is the dearth in quality separating Northampton and their opponents this week. The Saints have had one of their poorest campaigns of recent memory, and it is certainly not too much of a stretch to suggest that they may not even qualify for Europe next season. The sacking this month of Jim Mallinder as director of rugby has brought some sighs of relief from Saints fans, however, following attack coach Alan Dickens’ appointment as interim head coach, the club are unlikely to appoint anyone on a permanent deal until the new season gets underway. This means that it is highly unlikely that Northampton will see their stocks rise instantaneously, and the Franklin’s Gardens faithful may just have to realign their expectations for the remainder of the current campaign.

The expected return of captain Dylan Hartley and British Lion Courtney Lawes will lift Saints’ spirits somewhat, but they will require a full 15-man performance if they are to take down the title-favourites. The halfback pairing of Nic Groom and Piers Francis will need to find some much-needed form this week, while the Northampton heavies, led by the irrepressible Lawes, will need to be as accurate as ever if they are to give themselves a fighting chance at undoing the most pragmatic rugby side in England.

Exeter
The Chiefs’ Champions Cup hopes may be on the ropes following successive defeats to Leinster, but they remain very much alive in the domestic stakes. The Leinster tie perhaps proved that Rob Baxter’s boys still have some way to go before they can properly challenge for European honours, but there were certainly enough signs to suggest that they are not too far off where they want to be. If Baxter can keep this current crop of players together for the next two or three seasons, they may well go on to reach new heights.

Considering the quality in the Exeter ranks, this week’s trip to Northampton shouldn’t pose too much of a threat to the league-leaders. Their hosts are deep in a slump and are still adjusting to a new head coach; this should be easy pickings indeed for Exeter. Expect them to boss the territory and possession stakes, as they so often do, and take the maximum points away from Franklin’s Gardens.

Verdict: Exeter 4/10
It really is hard to see an upset on the cards given the Saints’ current state. Exeter will control proceedings from the get-go, and this dominance will ultimately lead to a heap of points.


Written by Shaun Goosen for @Hollywoodbets.net

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