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Biggar, Lawes and Matavesi return for Saints’ European opener

Northampton Saints welcome a trio of internationals back into their starting XV for Friday evening’s visit of Bordeaux-Bègles in the Heineken Champions Cup.

Wales fly-half Dan Biggar, Fiji hooker Sam Matavesi, and England flanker Courtney Lawes all return to Director of Rugby Chris Boyd’s line-up for the first time this season, as the men in Black, Green and Gold look to kick-off their European campaign with a win in front of 2,000 supporters at Franklin’s Gardens.

This will be only the third meeting between Northampton and Bordeaux – the sides clashed twice in the 1997/98 Challenge Cup, each winning their home matches – while Saints have won nine of their last 11 home games against Top14 opposition in the Champions Cup.

Tom Wood will lead out the hosts from flanker, with Lawes (making his first appearance since sustaining an ankle injury in September) on the other side of the scrum, and Shaun Adendorff completes the back row in the No.8 jersey.

Hooker Matavesi, who started Fiji’s only Autumn Nations Cup clash against Georgia last weekend, comes straight into the starting line-up while Nick Auterac and Owen Franks pack down either side of him in the front row.

David Ribbans and Nick Isiekwe are selected in the engine room for Saints, with Biggar returning at fly-half after five weeks with Wales and partnering No.9 Alex Mitchell in the half-back berths.

Rory Hutchinson and Matt Proctor are selected together in Northampton’s midfield for the first time this term, while wing Taqele Naiyaravoro gets his first start of the season and Ahsee Tuala and fullback George Furbank round off the back three.

NORTHAMPTON SAINTS vs BORDEAUX BÈGLES
Heineken Champions Cup, Round 1 (Pool A)
Friday 11 December 2020
Franklin’s Gardens
Kick-off: 5.30pm

15 George Furbank
14 Ahsee Tuala
13 Matt Proctor
12 Rory Hutchinson
11 Taqele Naiyaravoro
10 Dan Biggar
9 Alex Mitchell

1 Nick Auterac
2 Sam Matavesi
3 Owen Franks
4 David Ribbans
5 Nick Isiekwe
6 Courtney Lawes
7 Tom Wood (c)
8 Shaun Adendorff

Replacements:
16 James Fish
17 Francois van Wyk
18 Paul Hill
19 Api Ratuniyarawa
20 JJ Tonks
21 Henry Taylor
22 Fraser Dingwall
23 Ryan Olowofela

Not available due to injury:
Alex Coles (shoulder), Teimana Harrison (calf), Mikey Haywood (knee), Danny Hobbs-Awoyemi (achilles), Lewis Ludlam (shin), Reece Marshall (concussion), Alex Moon (ankle), Ollie Sleightholme (ankle), and Kayde Sylvester (achilles).

Referee: Ben Whitehouse
Assistant Referees: Ian Tempest and Rob Warburton
No.4: Neil Chivers
TMO: David Grashoff