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Aviva Premiership Preview: Exeter vs. Northampton

Aviva Premiership leaders Northampton Saints travel to Exeter Chiefs as they look to extend their unbeaten run to six matches. The Saints currently hold a 10 point advantage over second placed Saracens with just four games remaining in the regular season. On the other hand, Exeter are in a fight for a playoff spot and are fifth in the table. Their recent 25-18 defeat to Leicester Tigers saw them drop out of the top four and they will be looking to bounce back at the first attempt against the current league leaders. We preview the upcoming game and give our thoughts on who will win what is set to be a tasty affair.

Exeter Chiefs

As mentioned, Exeter dropped out of the top four after defeat to Leicester, but they will be in a confident mood after thrashing Newcastle Falcons 48-13 to reach the Challenge Cup semi-finals for the first time in the team’s history. The Chiefs scored six tries against Newcastle, including another for Exeter no. 8 Thomas Waldrom, and they will be looking to continue in the same vein against Northampton on Sunday. Exeter are unbeaten in their last nine Challenge Cup home fixtures and they will be hoping that the supporters get behind the team on Sunday as they bid to reach the Premiership playoffs. They lost lock Damian Welch in the warm-up prior to the Newcastle match but he may be fit to return against the Saints, which would be a huge boost for the side and definitely help at line-outs.

Northampton Saints

Northampton are in excellent form, and they will be in a buoyant mood when they head to Sandy Park on Sunday afternoon. The league leaders were thrashed 37-5 by Clermont last Saturday, but will be chomping at the bit after scoring seven tries in their last Premiership match, a 52-30 demolition of 14-man Wasps just a fortnight ago. George North will be a huge blow to the Saints after he was advised to take a month away from the sport. The Welsh winger suffered his third concussion in the last four matches during the victory, after Wasps’ Nathan Hughes collided with North in the first-half of their last Premiership match. Northampton do have reliable replacements and still possess the dangerous Ahsee Tuala – who scored a brace last time out – and will be confident that they can cope without the 22-year-old.

Prediction

Going by form, the Saints should record a relatively straightforward victory, but the Chiefs are likely to give them a difficult game at Sandy Park. The pundits are suggesting that this could be a routine victory for the visitors, despite the huge loss of George North. Exeter will be confident after their recent European victory, but they may also be distracted by their upcoming semi-final against Gloucester – which makes this clash a difficult one to call. The Saints should be good enough to beat the Chiefs on the road and move one step closer to winning the regular season; they may take it by 1-7 points in the end.

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