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Nic Ladds 21st May 2009 - 13:16

Back the Saints to march all over French dreams

Beating the French, getting one over on Wasps and lifting a cup - it looks set to be quite a weekend for 8/11 favourites Northampton Saints as they take on 12/5 underdogs Bourgoin.

The Saints have had a poor season by their high standard in the Guinness Premiership as they only managed in finish in eighth place, however they are yet to lose a game in the European Challenge Cup and they look more than capable of continuing this trend.

Bourgoin finished in tenth in the Top 14, just two places above the relegation zone and until a late rally in this competition they had stuttered their through the earlier stages.

Their win against London Irish 32-30 was their finest hour and demonstrates that they have got a battle in them and Northampton will have to be on their guard.

The Saints are being asked to concede 8 points on the handicap at odds of 10/11 and that looks fair in a contest where they are without a doubt stronger, but face a team who have nothing to lose and everything to gain.

Bourgoin meanwhile are also 10/11 receiving the 8 points, and for those who think it will be more one sided there are a host of alternative handicaps available, the most interesting of which has Northampton -13 points at 7/5 with the French side 8/15 with a 13 point start.

The Saints are evidently taking this match extremely seriously as it has been well documented they have stopped Scotland prop Euan Murray from joining up with the Lions squad and he will be an integral cog in the Northampton pack on Friday.

For anyone who thinks Saints may get complacent, they have a whole host of reasons to win other than winning the Cup itself.

Should Northampton win they will be rewarded with a place in the holy grail of rugby union, the Heineken Cup, which is what every Guinness Premiership club strives for.

Should they lose to their French opponents then the Heineken Cup place will be awarded to Wasps as they finished seventh in the league, one place about the Saints.

It would be a bitter pill to swallow for Jim Mallinder and his team to have to watch Shaun Edwards and his underachieving team of stars in giving Europe's premier competition a bash and you can be sure every player will want to prevent this happening.

A host of Saints players will be out to impress also with Ben Foden and Dylan Hartley having been called up to the England squad to face the Barbarians and Argentina and Foden has made no secret that he is determined to replace Delon Armitage at fullback.

Stephen Myler has also been named in the Saxons squad, and of course Lions' player Murray will be keen to spur on the forwards to crush the Bourgoin pack.

For those who think 8 points is too much on the handicap, a winning margin of 1-5 in Northampton's favour is 5/1 with 6-10 at 9/2 or a win between 1-12 points can be backed at odds of 8/5 in the 'dozen winning margins' market.

Should Bourgoin scrape another narrow win then the 6/1 for a win of 1-5 points for the French side looks like the bet.

Bourgoin's main danger men look to be experienced pair Benjamin Boyet and Morgan Parra who could orchestrate one of the best kicking games around.

Boyet can kick penalties from ridiculously far out and French international Parra has the ability to dictate the game from scrumhalf.

However the swirling winds that could engulf The Stoop could throw this plan of action totally off course and this would play right in to Northampton's hands.

For a try scorer, Saints wingers Paul Diggin and Bruce Reihana will be popular at 10/1 each to score the first try, but a better bet could be Foden to score anytime at odds of 2/1 as he will be keen to impress and if Northampton do run up a big score, he will no doubt be in the mix.

There is too much at stake here for the Saints to let this one go and while Bourgoin have an experienced side that will give it their all, Northampton's quality should tell and it could end up being a convincing win.

Ben Foden to score anytime - 2/1
Northampton -8 points - 10/11

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