Newport Gwent Dragons v Northampton Saints
Saturday January 25, 14:00
Live on Sky Sports 1
After a fortnight of European action, the LV= Cup resumes with the third round of fixtures. Northampton Saints missed out on a Heineken Cup knockout place last week but the Premiership side will have high hopes of reaching the last four in this competition. Jim Mallinder's side head to Wales this weekend to face Newport Gwent Dragons.
The Saints have put themselves on course for a semi-final place after winning their opening two matches this season. Northampton started the tournament with a comprehensive 33-6 home win over Gloucester in November. The Saints backed this up impressively in their next match as they travelled to rivals London Irish and claimed a 39-18 win.
It has been an exceptionally consistent campaign for Northampton. Since losing to Leinster, the Saints have won their last six matches. Their form on the road has been extremely impressive with six consecutive victories. Northampton also have a recent win in Wales in the memory bank after beating the Ospreys 29-17 earlier this month.
The Saints are without a host of key players this weekend though due to the build-up to next month's Six Nations. Wales winger George North is the most notable name missing from their side while England hooker Dylan Hartley is also unavailable. Phil Dowson captains the team and, although the side is weakened, there should still be enough quality to gain a positive result.
It has been a a tale of mixed fortunes for Newport Gwent Dragons in the LV= Cup this season. The Welsh side began the competition with a trip to the Scarlets where they went down to a 21-13 defeat. But the Dragons got back on track, to sit second in pool one, after securing a 20-8 home win over London Wasps in their second game.
The Dragons have struggled for consistency throughout this campaign. They finished with three wins and three defeats in their European Challenge Cup pool while their Pro 12 form has also been very hit and miss. The Welsh side are sixth in the table but have been beaten in seven of their 12 league matches. Their results at Rodney Parade have been better though with seven wins from ten home games.
Quite simply it is very difficult to bet against Northampton in their current form and mood. The 2010 winners are full of confidence after their recent winning run and will expect to have too much for their opponents. Both sides are missing international players but the visitors have much more strength in depth to cope. Expect the Saints to continue their 100 per cent record in this season's competition but it could be by a tight margin due to their influential absentees.
Back Northampton Saints to win by under 12.5 points at 2.3611/8
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