It all points North.
It’s the leaders of the Aviva Premiership versus the early pace-setters in the PRO12 in this eagerly awaited clash of the two in-form teams in England and Wales respectively.
Northampton are one of the favourites for this year’s Champions Cup and will need to prove their credentials against Ospreys after an opening day defeat. There was no great shame in falling to Racing Metro last weekend and Jim Mallinder’s side were unlucky to leave Paris empty handed in the end.
The current English champions have picked up where they left off last season and, despite last week’s setback, should still run out at Franklin’s Gardens brimming with confidence. This is a chance to put down a marker on home soil and they will be expected to see off the challenge of Ospreys and chase a bonus-point victory.
Ospreys have also enjoyed an outstanding start to the season, recording their seventh successive win as they swatted aside the challenge of Treviso at the Liberty Stadium last weekend. This, however, is a massive step-up.
While boasting a 100 per cent record in the PRO12, the Welsh region have often failed to carry their league form into Europe and have never gone beyond the quarter-finals, last doing so in 2010.
Northampton have not progressed beyond the group stage since their final appearance in 2011 but much is expected of captain Dylan Hartley and team-mates, with Welsh giant George North already in fine try-scoring form this season and Courtney Laws as dominant as ever at the lineout.
Ospreys coach Steve Tandy saw nine of his players selected – the largest contingency of any of the Welsh regions – this week for Wales’ November series of matches and will have no reason to fear any side after such an impressive start to the 2014/15 campaign.
The Saints have won the sides’ two previous encounters and with home advantage will want to signal their intent in this year’s competition. Take Northampton to put down an early marker and 10/11 on the first-half points spread (-6.5) looks tempting.
The match kicks off at 5.15pm on Saturday, October 25 at Franklin’s Gardens.