Saints to march on
Northampton and Racing Metro have each accumulated the most points in this year’s competition (19) and a bonus-point defeat for either should ensure progression, however a win is needed to confirm a home quarter-final draw.
Saints’ victory over Ospreys at the Liberty Stadium last weekend couldn’t prevent Racing from taking over at the top of Pool 5 after their 53-7 win over Treviso secured a first bonus-point of the season.
Racing are the only unbeaten side in the tournament and are currently the No 1 ranked club going into the Round 6 but that won’t faze the prolific Saints, who are the tournament’s leading points and try scorers with 170 and 24 respectively.
Saints were rocked by the blow that full-back Ben Foden will miss the rest of the season after rupturing his anterior cruciate ligament after just 12 minutes against Ospreys last weekend.
This compounded the continued absence of influential second row Courtney Lawes, who has now not played in over a month. However, these set-backs were countered by the welcome return of skipper Dylan Hartley last weekend after serving a three-week ban.
Racing have had injury woes of their own, most notably the loss of key playmaker Jonny Sexton but have not been unduly affected.
Their dynamic captain Dimitri Szarzewski leads from the front – the hooker nabbing a hat-trick of tries last weekend – while backline flyers Brice Dulin and Argentine Juan Imhoff, the latter has more clean breaks (10) than any other player in this year’s competition, provide a cutting thrust to their attacking play.
Jim Mallinder’s side were unlucky to leave Paris empty handed in the opening round of fixtures and will be desperate to claim revenge for that 20-11 defeat, in which they were robbed of a losing bonus point late on.
Northampton have not progressed beyond the group stage since their final appearance in 2010/11 but the Aviva Premiership leaders have lost only once at Franklin’s Gardens in all competitions this season and look good to extend that run at 81/89 at -9 on the 3-way handicap here.
The match kicks off at 3.15pm on Saturday, January 24th at Franklin’s Gardens.