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Boyd makes five changes as Saints bid to stay top of the pile

Jamie Gibson and Mikey Haywood both start their first matches of the season as Northampton Saints make five changes to their starting XV, with Harlequins the visitors to Franklin’s Gardens on Friday evening.

The men in Black, Green and Gold will be looking to stay at the top of the Gallagher Premiership standings by maintaining their 100 per cent winning record with a third straight victory, after beating Saracens and Worcester Warriors in consecutive weeks.

Saints have enjoyed some good form against the London side in recent years, winning five of their last six clashes including a league double last season – but with both of those matches decided by less than a score, supporters can anticipate another nail-biting encounter on Friday evening (kick-off 7.45pm).

Director of rugby Chris Boyd makes just one change to Northampton’s backline, with the hard-hitting Andy Symons returning to the hosts’ midfield to join Scotland international Rory Hutchinson in the centres.

That means James Grayson and Henry Taylor are selected once again in the half-back positions, while the back three of Taqele Naiyaravoro, Tom Collins and last weekend’s man-of-the-match George Furbank remains unchanged.

Boyd however has opted to shuffle his pack with double World Cup winner Ben Franks rotated in to start at loosehead prop, although Ehren Painter keeps his spot at tighthead.

James Fish has failed to recover from the head injury that forced him off against Worcester, meaning Haywood starts his first game for Saints in just under 12 months at hooker.

Lock David Ribbans returns from compassionate leave to take his place in the engine room alongside Alex Moon, and Northampton’s back row is packed with experience with Tom Wood, Gibson, and captain Teimana Harrison all set to start.

Saints’ bench is full of youth as Fraser Dingwall, Connor Tupai, Ollie Sleightholme and Alex Coles are all named amongst the replacements, while there is also room for Api Ratuniyarawa – who makes his first appearance since returning from Rugby World Cup duty with Fiji.

NORTHAMPTON SAINTS vs HARLEQUINS
Gallagher Premiership Rugby, Round Three
Friday 1 November 2019
Franklin’s Gardens
Kick-off: 7.45pm

15 George Furbank
14 Tom Collins
13 Rory Hutchinson
12 Andrew Symons
11 Taqele Naiyaravoro
10 James Grayson
9 Henry Taylor

1 Ben Franks
2 Mikey Haywood
3 Ehren Painter
4 David Ribbans
5 Alex Moon
6 Tom Wood
7 Jamie Gibson
8 Teimana Harrison (c)

Replacements:
16 Michael Van Vuuren
17 Alex Waller
18 Paul Hill
19 Api Ratuniyarawa
20 Alex Coles
21 Connor Tupai
22 Fraser Dingwall
23 Ollie Sleightholme

Referee: JP Doyle
Assistant referees: Jack Makepeace & Paul Dix
TMO: Sean Davey

Not available for selection:
Francois van Wyk (elbow), Harry Mallinder (knee), Dylan Hartley (knee), Alex Mitchell (knee), Reece Marshall (hamstring), and James Fish (head).

International duty:
Dan Biggar (Wal), Piers Francis (Eng), Courtney Lawes (Eng), Lewis Ludlam (Eng) and Cobus Reinach (SA).

Next Home Match

Northampton Saints
03
Days
20
Hours
13
Mins
Harlequins
Saturday 28 November - 2:00pm