Northampton Saints have named an almost unchanged starting line-up to take on Harlequins at Twickenham on Saturday, with interim head coach Alan Dickens making just one switch from last week.
Dickens’ side travel to HQ determined to end 2017 with a victory after a much-improved performance against defending Aviva Premiership champions Exeter Chiefs last time out.
After impressing off the bench at Franklin’s Gardens, flanker Tom Wood will return to the starting XV with Courtney Lawes shifting to the second row to join Fijian Api Ratuniyarawa.
Jamie Gibson and Teimana Harrison keep their places at openside flanker and No.8 respectively, while the front row is also unchanged.
And Dickens has also stuck with the same back-line as last weekend, with the in-form Harry Mallinder looking for his fourth try in five matches from full-back.
But there are more changes on the bench with Dickens welcoming back two of Saints’ most experienced campaigners from injury; British & Irish Lion George North and Stephen Myler – third on the all-time Aviva Premiership top points scorers list – are both named among the replacements.
If he is introduced it will be North’s first appearance since suffering a knee injury against Saracens in the Champions Cup, while fly-half Myler has shaken off the calf issue that has seen him miss two matches.
Dynamic flanker Ben Nutley also comes onto the bench and is in line to make his second league appearance of the season.
And interim head coach Dickens is adamant that after a much-improved display in defence last time out against top-of-the-table Exeter Chiefs, Saints are looking to click into gear this weekend with the ball in hand.
“We need to be more clinical and really focus on looking after the ball and going through the phases,” he said.
“Harlequins are a very tough team to play and like us have had frustrating periods this season, but can beat anyone on their day – they showed that against Saracens.
“We need to go down to Twickenham with the belief that we can win, and I think if we can put some of their key players under pressure we can turn that Big Game environment to our advantage.”
Tickets are still available for the Gloucester match at Franklin’s Gardens on Saturday 6th January, starting from £28 (adults) and £12 (juniors). Visit bit.ly/SAI-GLO-201718 to book online or call the Saints Ticket Office on 01604 581000.
HARLEQUINS V SAINTS TEAM NEWS
Aviva Premiership Rugby, Round 12
Saturday 30 December, 2017
15 Mike Brown
1 Joe Marler
15 Harry Mallinder
1 Campese Ma’afu
Kieran Brookes (hand), Tom Collins (foot), Alex Waller (arm), Jamie Elliott (hamstring) and Rory Hutchinson (back) are unavailable for selection.