Fixture: Northampton Saints vs London Irish

Competition: Gallagher Premiership, Round 2

Date: 17th September 2022

Kick-off: 2pm

Stadium: cinch Stadium at Franklin’s Gardens

Capacity: 15,200


London Irish is back on the road this weekend for a first away trip of the Gallagher Premiership season, with Northampton Saints lying in wait at the cinch Stadium at Franklin’s Gardens.

Phil Dowson’s side welcome Irish to the Midlands after the Exiles continued their excellent run of home form against Worcester Warriors (losing just once in their last 14), with the 45-14 result also being the first opening day win of the Premiership since 2019 for Irish.

The Boys in Green not only top of the charts in the Gallagher Premiership overall standings, but amassed the most points (45), tries (7) and turnovers won (9) in Round 1 and rank in the top five teams in carries (131), tackles (151) and visits to the 22 (10).

Saints conversely managed a losing bonus point in their away visit to Sale Sharks, finishing with a flurry through a Tom Collins brace and an Ollie Sleightholme try that meant the Franklin’s Gardens side walked away with something from the 29-22 defeat.

The vivacious style of the game employed by Saturday’s hosts was still evident in defeat, having topped the defenders beaten chart with (29), and also in top five of metres gained (505) and visits to 22 (10).

Whilst Irish’s win means they have lost just one of their last four league games, Northampton’s record is inversed with just one win in as many games, coming in a 65-26 victory at home against Newcastle Falcons in June.

In the time being, the East Midlanders have replenished their stock with nine new signings, namely Queensland Reds duo Angus Scott-Young and Lukhan Salakaia-Loto, and scrum-half Callum Braley, formerly of Benetton Treviso.

The boss- Phil Dowson:

Possessing a distinguished playing career in his extensive repertoire, Dowson won the Powergen and Anglo-Welsh Cups twice, one each with Newcastle Falcons and Northampton Saints, also playing a part in the latter’s double winning side of the 2013/14 season.

Dowson spent eight seasons at Kingston Park with Falcons, two of which as captain, before a switch further south to Northampton where he earned his first England cap after time with the Saxons squad in numerous Churchill Cup tournaments.

Attaining a decorated stint with the side in Black, Green and Gold, the former back-row forward spent two seasons with Worcester Warriors where he reached 262 Premiership appearances, the joint third highest in the division.

Upon completion of his playing days, he then re-joined Northampton as Assistant Coach, impressing with a quick progression to being named as Forwards Coach ahead of the 2018/19 season, as well as coaching an England XV against the Barbarians in 2019.

In the 2022/23 campaign, Phil Dowson enters his first season in charge of at the Club he made 186 appearances for, ascending from the Forwards Coach position whilst operating under previous Director of Rugby, Chris Boyd.

One to watch- Lukhan Salakaia-Loto:

Salakaia-Loto was one of three debutants for Saints last week, joined by Sam Graham and former Queensland Reds teammate Angus Scott-Young in their maiden Saints run-outs against Sale Sharks.

On his debut, the second-row forward made 24 metres from 11 carries (second-most of any forward), seven passes including two offloads, nine tackles, one defender beaten, whilst also winning and stealing a lineout.

The Australian international joined from the Super Rugby Pacific outfit after a seven-year stay, with Director of Rugby Phil Dowson praising the abrasiveness and adaptability of Salakaia-Loto as well as Scott-Young in their first game.

Having represented Australia in the 2015 and 2016 World Rugby Under-20s Championships and then making his Test debut against South Africa in 2017, the versatile 25-year-old earned 30 caps for his country to date including five in the 2019 Rugby World Cup.

Cutting an imposing 6’6”, 121kg frame able to slot in amongst the back row, Salakaia-Loto started his rugby career in the league code with Western Suburbs before representing Randwick in Sydney.

Classic Encounter- London Irish 25-23 Northampton Saints – 26th December 2015 – Aviva Premiership:

The Exiles earned a satisfying win over Northampton Saints in their Christmas fixture at the Madejski Stadium in 2015, a late penalty try being the only divider between the sides.

Luke Narraway and Sean Maitland lifted the home side into the ascendency with two first-half scores, although Ken Pisi bit back to bring his men back into the conversation.

Pisi’s score set the tone for second period, Saints leapfrogging Irish with smart scores from George North and Kahn Fotuali'I to establish a five-point swing.

Nevertheless, a late penalty try was awarded following a dominant set-piece from the Exiles and victory stayed with Tom Coventry’s side in Reading.

London Irish

Tries: Luke Narraway, Sean Maitland, Penalty try

Conversions: Chris Noakes, Shane Geraghty

Penalties: Chris Noakes (2)

Northampton Saints

Tries: Ken Pisi, George North, Kahn Fotuali'i

Conversion: Steven Myler

Penalties: Steven Myler (2)

Pre-match patter:

Northampton Saints Director of Rugby Phil Dowson has confirmed that Wales international out-half Dan Biggar will be in contention to play against London Irish in Round 2 of the Gallagher Premiership this weekend.

"Dan Biggar's available, we're just waiting and seeing," Dowson revealed this week.

"He's not done much contact so we look at the GPS data, we talk to the medics and the S&C and decide at what point they're ready to go or if they're ready for a position on the bench."

Whist also announcing that forwards David Ribbans and Ehren Painter have returned to training, Dowson also said that his Club’s England tourists of Australia will have to face another week away from the pitch.

"We've got guys coming back in this week and then the following week the England guys are available," Dowson said.

"I can't pick them this week, as you have to apply for special dispensation.

"Courtney played a lot of minutes on tour, Lewis played a lot of minutes on tour, and we try to give those guys a proper off-season.

"We'd love to have them available to play against Irish, but we trust the depth of the squad and we know that in the long term we need to look after those guys in terms of player welfare."

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