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Gallagher Premiership
May 18, 2024 at 3.05pm UK
Northampton Saints
BathBath Rugby
SaintsNorthampton Saints
Bayliss (7'), Muir (14', 63'), Dunn (42'), Spencer (53'), Barbeary (60')
Ramm (39'), Seabrook (77')

Preview: Bath Rugby vs. Northampton Saints - prediction, team news, lineups

Sports Mole previews Saturday's Gallagher Premiership clash between Bath Rugby and Northampton Saints, including predictions, team news and possible lineups.

Arguably, the pick of the matches in the final round of the 2023-24 Gallagher Premiership regular season will see Bath Rugby taking on Northampton Saints at the Rec on Saturday afternoon.

Bath are playing to solidify their spot in the playoffs, while Northampton are looking to maintain their position at the top of the league to secure home advantage for their knockout tie.

Match preview

Bath's Zach Mercer pictured in January 2021© Reuters

Bath have experienced a remarkable turnaround this season and approach the final round of action against the table-topping Northampton Saints with just one league point needed to secure a playoff berth and potentially complete a historic finish to the season.

Johann van Graan's team will also be able to secure a home playoff match by defeating Northampton and if Saracens lose to Sale Sharks. However, a defeat without a bonus point could see Bath miss out on the semi-finals altogether if that is paired with a bonus point Exeter Chiefs or Harlequins win, as well as a Sale Sharks victory over Saracens.

Newcastle Falcons felt the force of Bath on Friday night at Kingston Park, with the visitors securing a bonus point before half time by scoring four tries in the first period. Bath went on to secure a 28-17 victory, leaving the Falcons with just one more chance to avoid a winless league campaign despite a spirited performance in the second half.

Although facing Saints on the final day may not have been Bath's ideal scenario when seeking a crucial result, they will know that to be the best, they need to beat the best, and a victory this weekend would undoubtedly provide Bath with a significant psychological advantage, particularly if the teams were to meet again down the road.

Needing a single point, and given that Bath lead the league for bonus points claimed so far this season (15), it feels somewhat fitting that their playoff fate could be determined by the little extras.

Northampton Saints' Courtney Lawes receives medical attention on January 21, 2023© Reuters

In their previous encounter, the Northampton Saints secured a 24-18 victory at Franklin's Gardens back in November, with tries from Tom Pearson, Alex Coles, and George Hendy proving to be the deciding factor.

It has indeed been a remarkable season for Northampton, winning 12 out of their 17 matches in the Premiership, which will see them end the group stage with a guaranteed top-two finish at least. Heading into the final weekend of the Premiership, they only require two points to end the regular season at the top of the table.

Throughout the 2023-24 season, Phil Dowson's team have displayed relentless determination, effectively utilizing rotation strategies both at the start and during matches as second-bottom Gloucester Rugby found out to devastating effect in their 90-0 defeat at Weedon Road last weekend.

Should Saints secure top spot in the regular season, it would mark the first time they have managed that feat in nine years and follows their excellent run in the Champions Cup, where they came just three points short of reaching the continental tournament final for the first time in 13 years.

Key to their success this term has been the form of Ollie Sleightholme, who all but guaranteed that he will finish the 2023-24 campaign as the top try-scorer in Gallagher Premiership Rugby after running in a hat-trick against Gloucester. The winger has now amassed 14 tries this campaign, trailing last season's top scorer, Cadan Murley, by just one try.

Bath Rugby Gallagher Premiership form:

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Northampton Saints Gallagher Premiership form:

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Team News

Van Graan made two changes to his forward pack last week, introducing Tom Dunn and Thomas du Toit from the start. Niall Annett and Will Stuart moved to the bench, and we could see the same in this one.

Beno Obano is expected to keep his place after starting the last seven games since the international window, while Quinn Roux and Charlie Ewels are likely to provide the power in the second row.

Fiji international Sam Matavesi has faced a season-long shootout for the No.2 shirt with Curtis Langdon, who was named the club's Breakthrough Player of the Season at Saints' annual awards on Tuesday. Langdon has had the edge in recent weeks, starting five of the last six matches in all competitions, and is likely to get the nod in this one as well.

Long-standing forward Courtney Lawes is set to play his final regular season game in the Premiership before moving to France over the summer and is set to pair up alongside the in-form Langdon looking to add power in the front row. in this match.

Bath Rugby predicted starting lineup: 15 Matt Gallagher, 14 Joe Cokanasiga, 13 Ollie Lawrence, 12 Cameron Redpath, 11 Will Muir, 10 Finn Russell, 9 Ben Spencer (c), 8 Alfie Barbeary, 7 Sam Underhill, 6 Ted Hill, 5 Charlie Ewels, 4 Quinn Roux, 3 Thomas du Toit, 2 Tom Dunn, 1 Beno Obano

Replacements: 16 Niall Annett, 17 Juan Schoeman, 18 Will Stuart, 19 Jacques du Plessis, 20 Miles Reid, 21 Louis Schreuder, 22 Orlando Bailey, 23 Josh Bayliss

Northampton Saints predicted starting lineup: 15 George Furbank, 14 George Hendy, 13 Tommy Freeman, 12 Fraser Dingwall, 11 Ollie Sleightholme, 10 Fin Smith, 9 Alex Mitchell, 8 Juarno Augustus, 7 Angus Scott-Young, 6 Courtney Lawes (c), 5 Alex Coles, 4 Alex Moon, 3 Trevor Davison, 2 Curtis Langdon, 1 Alex Waller

Replacements: 16 Sam Matavesi, 17 Emmanuel Iyogun, 18 Elliot Millar Mills, 19 Temo Mayanavanua, 20 Sam Graham, 21 Tom James, 22 Burger Odendaal, 23 Tom Seabrook

SM words green background

We say: Bath Rugby 34-29 Northampton Saints

Bath have been one of the most in-form teams in the closing stages of the Gallagher Premiership regular season and have got themselves into a very strong position to reach the playoffs. While the Saints have been incredible this term, we feel the hosts will muster one more big performance here to book their place in the semi-finals.

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