Premiership Rugby

Premiership Rugby Final Preview: Will Bath Complete Rise Against Saints?

Premiership Rugby Final Preview: Will Bath Complete Rise Against Saints?

With both clubs entering this weekend's final on long title droughts, the Saints and Bath each have so much to play for at Twickenham Stadium.

Jun 7, 2024 by Briar Napier
Premiership Rugby Final Preview: Will Bath Complete Rise Against Saints?

We’ve been playing rugby in the Premiership since October of last year.

And Saturday, in front of what will be a sellout crowd at the rugby cathedral of Twickenham Stadium, another chapter in Premiership Rugby will come to a thrilling conclusion.

The Northampton Saints and Bath Rugby are the final two squads left standing battling for the biggest prize in England, and both teams have waited for quite a while for a chance to claim the silverware yet again. 

They'll be getting underway Saturday (June 8) at 3 p.m. Eastern.

From the Saints’ multiple players looking to go out on top, to Bath’s meteoric rise from the league basement, there are plenty of storylines, too.

It’s the most deserving two squads duking it out for the crown, as the Saints and Bath finished Nos. 1 and 2 in the Premiership’s regular-season table, respectively. If you want best-on-best rugby being played with high stakes and quality, look no further.

Sit back, read this preview and enjoy what’s to come.

Here’s all you need to know ahead of the grandest game in English professional rugby:

Northampton Saints

Previous Premiership Title: 2014

The Premiership’s regular season champion, Northampton’s decade-long journey back to the league final has been full of near misses and being right there near the top, but never quite on top. 

It took four playoff semifinal defeats between 2014 and this year for the Saints to get back to a Premiership final, but with just their second time in being the top flight’s top seed entering the postseason, Northampton took advantage and ensured with authority that it was the team to beat at Twickenham going into this weekend by eliminating defending champion Saracens in the semifinals. 

Fly-half Fin Smith had 17 points in that victory, more than any other player in the semifinal round, and he’ll once again feature at the No. 10 for the Saints in the final as he and others will try and send out the club’s four departing players (Alex Waller, Courtney Lawes, Lewis Ludlam and Alex Moon) out with a bang. 

The Rugby Players’ Association Players’ Player of the Year, the 22-year-old Smith has been a major player for the Saints who quickly filled the void left behind by Dan Biggar (now at Toulon), and he’ll be vitally important as he squares off against Scotland counterpart Finn Russell in this weekend’s final. 

With a strong defence that has rebounded from being one of the Premiership’s worst a season ago, as well, the Saints look primed and ready as on-paper favourites for the final. Can they deliver and make the 10-year wait worth it, too?

Key Man: Alex Waller, Prop

Rarely has Waller not been a vital fixture of a Northampton lineup over the past decade-plus, anyway, but as he prepares for his final match with the club this weekend, that rings especially true this time. 

Waller, who debuted for the Saints in 2009 and has since racked up 377 appearances in the squad, announced in March that he would be retiring from professional rugby at the conclusion of the season, having firmly established himself as a Northampton legend. 

That already impressive fact aside, Waller 10 years ago also was directly responsible for one of the club’s finest moments — and he could play a part in another one Saturday. 

In the 2014 Premiership final against Saracens, Waller came off of the bench and scored the match-winning try for Saints in extra time, handing the club its first, and only, Premiership win to date. 

England centurion Lawes, the only other man suiting up for the Saints on Saturday who also played in the 2014 final, may be the more well-known name who is also calling it quits with the club after the season, but Waller’s service and memories made at Northampton — even without any England caps to his name — make him extra appreciated by Saints fans. And now, he can help give them one last memory on his way out.


Previous Premiership titles: 1989, 1991, 1992, 1993, 1994, 1996

Just two seasons ago, Bath was in five-alarm fire mode. 

The club finished bottom in the 2021-2022 Premiership table — being saved from relegation only due to the three-year, pandemic-caused moratorium on the drop — and were embarrassed in April of that season with a 64-0 loss to West Country derby rival Gloucester, the latter squad’s largest Premiership victory. 

Heads rolled after such a terrible season, and those changes eventually led to the appointment of former Munster boss Johann van Graan as head coach for the 2022-2023 campaign. It turned out to be one of the best moves the club has ever made. 

Bath rebounded the following season to finish eighth and secure Champions Cup qualification on the final day, and van Graan this year has masterfully steered Bath to a second-place finish in the regular-season table and a spot in the final after it took care of business against the Sale Sharks at the Recreation Ground last weekend. 

Once a superpower in English rugby, Bath’s 28-year drought dating back to its most recent Premiership title is the active longest among former league champions, with the club last appearing in a Premiership final in 2015. 

But in turning back the clock and capturing a long-awaited seventh title this weekend, Bath would break a three-way tie with Wasps and Saracens for the second-most Premiership wins for any club, leaving it only behind Leicester Tigers’ 11.

Key Man: Josh Bayliss, No. 8

With Northampton bringing a lineup that’s unchanged from its playoff semifinal victory, Bath’s changes on its end mean that new names will need to step up on the big stage. 

And no replacement player in the side starting at Twickenham on Saturday has a bigger role to play than Bayliss. 

The Scotland international, who has made over 100 appearances for Bath since debuting in 2016 from the club’s academy, comes in at No. 8 to start in the final in place of the dropped Alfie Barbeary — a bold call by van Graan, considering that Bayliss has only started one league game previously and played a total of 289 minutes this season.

Perhaps van Graan and the rest of Bath’s coaching staff might be onto something, though, because when Bath was playing Northampton on the final day of the regular season less than a month ago, Bayliss was vital to his club getting over with a win in a big win. 

Bayliss got the start that day against the Saints and scored the first try of the match in what was eventually a 43-12 Bath demolition at the Recreation Ground, kickstarting a six-try party and helping the club officially secure a home playoff match, with the caveat that Northampton was resting multiple key players having already clinched the playoffs’ top seed. 

Now, with a trophy to play for this weekend, Bath has opted to trust in Bayliss again, and the gamble could pay off if Bayliss once again helps his team get off on the right foot early on in the match. 


Northampton Saints

15 George Furbank, 14 Tommy Freeman, 13 Burger Odendaal, 12 Fraser Dingwall, 11 Ollie Sleightholme, 10 Fin Smith, 9 Alex Mitchell, 8 Juarno Augustus, 7 Tom Pearson, 6 Courtney Lawes (c), 5 Alex Coles, 4 Alex Moon, 3 Trevor Davison, 2 Curtis Langdon, 1 Alex Waller.

Bench: 16 Sam Matavesi, 17 Emmanuel Iyogun, 18 Elliot Millar Mills, 19 Temo Mayanavanua, 20 Sam Graham, 21 Lewis Ludlam, 22 Tom James, 23 George Hendy.


15 Matt Gallagher, 14 Joe Cokanasiga, 13 Ollie Lawrence, 12 Cameron Redpath, 11 Will Muir, 10 Finn Russell, 9 Ben Spencer (c), 8 Josh Bayliss, 7 Sam Underhill, 6 Ted Hill, 5 Charlie Ewels, 4 Quinn Roux, 3 Thomas du Toit, 2 Tom Dunn, 1 Beno Obano.

Bench: 16 Niall Annett, 17 Juan Schoeman, 18 Will Stuart, 19 Elliott Stooke, 20 Alfie Barbeary, 21 Louis Schreuder, 22 Orlando Bailey, 23 Miles Reid.

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