Northampton Saints are looking to keep pace with the top four and notch up a season’s double over Gloucester on Saturday, and we’ve crunched the numbers ahead of the Cherry & Whites’ visit to Franklin’s Gardens in Round 18 of the Gallagher Premiership.
The stats don’t tell the full story when it comes to a lethal Gloucester backline which includes new British & Irish Lions Louis Rees Zammit and Chris Harris. The duo, along with another flyer in Jonny May, do not feature among the league’s top performers for any attacking stat, largely due to their absence for the entirety of the Six Nations.
That doesn’t mean that Saints won’t know what to expect, however, with Ollie Thorley and Mark Atkinson also having provided problems for the men in Black, Green and Gold in recent seasons.
It is from the back row that the visitors shine on the data sheets. Captain Lewis Ludlow has made a staggering 236 tackles this season – almost 50 more than any other player – and is also among the top 10 for turnovers won.
And when it comes to heavy hitting with ball in hand, there are few more destructive than Ruan Ackermann, the South African racking up 192 carries and sitting behind just Zach Mercer (225) and Sam Simmonds (198) in the rankings.
One area where the Cherry and Whites excel is in their superb lineout defence. Ludlow is again to the fore, with eight steals for the season, while teammate Ed Slater has six, putting both in the Gallagher Premiership’s top three.
As a unit, Gloucester steal more lineouts per game than any other side, with 21 for the season.
In comparison, Saints have nicked a lot fewer – just nine for the 2020/21 campaign (Ave: Saints 0.8 vs 1.2 Gloucester) – though they have managed to maintain a superior percentage on their own throw in at 88.4% vs 85.8% for George Skivington’s side.
Gloucester rely heavily on their set-piece to launch and as a result, have amassed close to 50% of their tries from first-phase ball (23 of 47). That’s a total only pace-setting Bristol and Exeter can better, with Saints sitting at 18 of 47 and enjoying a more even spread across the phases.
Defensively, the away side have conceded 18 more times than their hosts and again it’s early possession that has done a lot of the damage.
Teams playing Gloucester have crossed the whitewash 35 times in the first three phases of play, with only Bath (62) and Worcester’s (64) whitewash breached more often (57).