Both Northampton and Exeter have made encouraging starts to the season and head into Sunday’s meeting chasing a third straight victory.
Saints were too good for Bath last weekend, outlasting their rivals 24-18 and are boosted by a pair of returning Rugby World Cup stars.
After seeing a string of big names depart in the summer, Chiefs have dispelled pre-season fears that they could struggle by winning three of their four games. All of those have come at home, though, and after losing last season’s trip to Franklin’s Gardens, they could come unstuck again.
Northampton welcome back scrum-half Alex Mitchell and flanker Courtney Lawes, who make their first Saints starts of the season after helping England to win the bronze medal at the Rugby World Cup.
Mitchell partners Fin Smith in the halves, while Tommy Freeman swaps the wing for the outside centre berth, as James Ramm returns to the side following injury.
Exeter have made six changes, although Tom Cairns and Harvey Skinner are retained in the half-back roles.
Wales international Dafydd Jenkins makes his first start of the season at lock, while Nika Abuladze, Dan Fros and Josh Iosefa-Scott form an all-new front row.
Northampton are 8/11 to get the result and Exeter’s early season form may tempt some punters to back them at the right side of Evens, with them 13/10 at time of writing.
A first-ever tie between the two is available at 18/1, while the last three renewals at Franklin’s Gardens have been settled by seven or fewer points either way.
That brings the handicap markets into play, with the 3-way mark set at -2 in Northampton’s favour.
Under 50.5 points also appeals at 10/11, with three of the last four meetings producing that outcome.
Northampton to win by 1-12 points inclusive @ 2/1
Northampton’s attacking options allow them to move the ball beautifully and they are always happy to throw the ball around. Tom James and Alex Coles have made eight and six offloads, respectively, this season – more than any other players in the league.
At 84.6 per cent, they also have the highest tackle success rate in the league and that will be tested by an Exeter side who have averaged more carries than any other team and who have Tom Wyatt, who has beaten more defenders than any other back.
The Chiefs have looked organised this season and the pair’s talent on both sides of the ball makes for an intriguing match-up.
Northampton’s ability to recall Lawes and Mitchell gives them a real upgrade, though, and after beating Newcastle 16-14 and winning with a six-point advantage over Bath, they could get home by a narrow margin again.
Winning by 1-12 points, as they did in last season’s 26-19 victory over the Chiefs, certainly appeals.
Northampton Saints – Total Points – Between 23.5 and 26.5 @ 13/2
That belief in that potential narrow win for the Saints is supplemented by their relative lack of points this season and is worth a look at backing them to score between 23.5 and 26.5.
They have accrued tallies of 15, 27, 16 and 24 in their four games, while they have scored 26 points or less in 10 of the pair’s last 11 meetings in all competitions.
Their highest two totals in 2023-24 have come at home against Bristol and Bath. They clearly play with more style at the Gardens but do not always rack up the points.
There is real value in the price of 13/2 for them to score between 23.6 and 26.5 points, especially with their visitors yet to concede more than 20 this term.
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