Director of Rugby Chris Boyd has made four changes to Northampton Saints’ starting XV for this weekend’s home Gallagher Premiership clash against London Irish.
British & Irish Lions Dan Biggar and Courtney Lawes return to the matchday squad for the men in Black, Green and Gold for the first time this season – Biggar starts at fly-half for Saints, with Lawes primed to make an impact off the bench in front of a raucous cinch Stadium at Franklin’s Gardens crowd.
Saints will be looking to extend a superb recent record against the Exiles having won 11 of the last 13 meeting between the sides in the Premiership, with London Irish winning just once in Northampton since 2011.
Lewis Ludlam will lead out the hosts, and the England flanker is joined once again in the back row by the evergreen Tom Wood – although Boyd does make a change at No.8 as Juarno Augustus starts a Premiership match for the first time.
There are also changes in the front row as props Nick Auterac and Paul Hill come in to pack down either side of hooker Sam Matavesi, but Saints’ engine room is unchanged from last weekend’s win over Exeter with David Ribbans and Api Ratuniyarawa starting together again.
Biggar is the headline inclusion in Northampton’s backline, and the only change outside the pack to the side which came from behind to beat Chiefs 26-24 at Sandy Park.
Alex Mitchell joins the 92-time Wales international in the half-back berths, with Fraser Dingwall and Matt Proctor – who scored his first Saints try since November 2019 last time out – selected in the hosts’ midfield.
George Furbank continues at fullback as Tom Collins and Ollie Sleightholme complete an unchanged back three for Northampton, who are aiming to win their first three matches of a Premiership season for only the fourth time (2010/11, 2012/13 and 2019/20).
Lawes is included amongst Saints’ replacements for his first involvement of the season in Black, Green and Gold, while the likes of Alex Waller, Ehren Painter, Alex Coles and Teimana Harrison will also look to add some ballast off the bench.
NORTHAMPTON SAINTS vs LONDON IRISH
Gallagher Premiership Rugby, Round 3
Saturday 2 October 2021
cinch Stadium at Franklin’s Gardens
15 George Furbank
14 Ollie Sleightholme
13 Matt Proctor
12 Fraser Dingwall
11 Tom Collins
10 Dan Biggar
9 Alex Mitchell
1 Nick Auterac
2 Sam Matavesi
3 Paul Hill
4 David Ribbans
5 Api Ratuniyarawa
6 Tom Wood
7 Lewis Ludlam (capt)
8 Juarno Augustus
16 James Fish
17 Alex Waller
18 Ehren Painter
19 Alex Coles
20 Courtney Lawes
21 Teimana Harrison
22 Frank Lomani
23 Tommy Freeman
Not considered for selection:
Matthew Arden, Callum Burns, Piers Francis, Oisín Heffernan, Dani Long-Martinez, Taqele Naiyaravoro, Ollie Newman, and JJ Tonks.
Referee: Tom Foley
Assistant referees: Wayne Barnes and Paul Dix
No.4: Michael Woods
TMO: David Rose