Match Preview: Bristol Bears v Northampton Saints

Match Preview: Bristol Bears v Northampton Saints

Northampton Saints returning to Gallagher Premiership Rugby action looking to consolidate their place at the top of the table with a trip to take on Bristol Bears at Ashton Gate.

With ten straight wins in all competitions, Phil Dowson’s side sit seven points clear at the top of the table heading into The Run-In.

But they face a tricky task away to Bears, who have won four of their last five in the league, most recently putting up a half-century of points on Bath Rugby in a West Country derby.

Currently in eighth, Bears sit six points off The Play-Offs and know that they cannot afford to slip up at home against the leaders.

Ellis Genge is back from international duty on the bench for the home side, while Saints have new England international Fin Smith at fly-half, combining with England Under-20s stand out Archie McParland, who makes his first league start.

TV: Live on TNT Sports, kick-off 7.45pm

Referee: Craig Maxwell-Keys

Assistant Referees: Tom Foley, John Meredith

TMO: Rowan Kitt


Bristol Bears: 15 Noah Heward, 14 Gabriel Ibitoye, 13 Benhard Janse van Rensburg, 12 James Williams, 11 Siva Naulago, 10 AJ MacGinty, 9 Harry Randall; 1 Yann Thomas, 2 Gabriel Oghre, 3 Kyle Sinckler, 4 James Dun, 5 Joe Batley, 6 Steven Luatua, 7 Fitz Harding (c), 8 Magnus Bradbury

Replacements: 16 Fred Davies, 17 Ellis Genge, 18 Max Lahiff, 19 Joe Owen, 20 Jake Heenan, 21 Kieran Marmion, 22 Kalaveti Ravouvou, 23 Max Malins

Northampton Saints: 15 George Hendy, 14 James Ramm, 13 Burger Odendaal, 12 Rory Hutchinson, 11 Ollie Sleightholme, 10 Fin Smith, 9 Archie McParland, 1 Emmanuel Iyogun, 2 Sam Matavesi, 3 Trevor Davison, 4 Temo Mayanavanua, 5 Alex Coles, 6 Courtney Lawes, 7 Lewis Ludlam (c), 8 Sam Graham

Replacements: 16 Curtis Langdon, 17 Alex Waller, 18 Paul Hill, 19 Tom Lockett, 20 Juarno Augustus, 21 Jake Garside, 22 Fraser Dingwall, 23 Tom Litchfield

Oval Insights

Bristol Bears

· In the last round of the Premiership, Magnus Bradbury made the most dominant carries (seven). He also made the second-most post-contact metres (29).

· Max Lahiff and Freddie Davies were the only teammates to make three dominant tackles apiece in Round 12.

· Bernhard Janse van Rensburg has made more post-contact metres than any other player, a total of 194 and an average of two per carry.

· Virimi Vakatawa has made a league-high 15 offloads so far this season. Teammates Gabriel Ibitoye and Bernhard Janse van Rensburg are in joint-third with 13 apiece.

Northampton Saints

· Ollie Sleightholme is currently the leading try-scorer in the Gallagher Premiership with seven. They have all come in his last five appearances.

· Northampton Saints have made more dominant carries and carry metres than any other team, averages of 28.2 and 419 respectively.

· The Saints have beaten an average of 23.8 defenders per 80 minutes and made an average of 10.2 clean breaks – both more than any other team.

· 51.3% of the Northampton Saints’ possessions this season have ended with a kick – the second-highest percentage in the league.

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