The Northampton manager Jim Mallinder has asked his team to be "smarter on the road" as they prepare for a tough Guinness Premiership clash at Bath. The Saints have won three league games on their return to the Premiership from National League One this season - but they were all at Franklin's Gardens. Their last top-flight away win came against fierce rivals Leicester almost two years ago.
And while Northampton are six points above bottom club Bristol, they could easily find themselves dragged into a relegation scrap. Mallinder said: "We are on a good run, but we haven't been getting the results in the Premiership, so we need to keep the momentum and get something at Bath. We are still learning lessons in the Premiership all the time. We are playing some good rugby at home, but we still need to be smarter on the road."
Bath will end 2008 as league leaders if they beat Saints and the current top-dogs London Irish, who have been unbeaten in all competitions since early October, lose against Saracens. The Exiles arrive at Vicarage Road fresh from crushing Gloucester and taking a two-point advantage over Bath into the Christmas period. Bristol's incentive against Gloucester tomorrow is a win that could see them climb off the Premiership basement.
A 20-20 draw with Worcester saw Richard Hill's team close the gap on the 11th-placed Newcastle - who host the Warriors tomorrow - to only one point. Harlequins' game against Leicester at Twickenham is a confirmed 50,000 sell-out, which will set a new attendance record for the Premiership's regular season. Leicester, though, have beaten Quins 11 times on the bounce in all competitions, including at Welford Road less than five weeks ago.
* PA Sport