Piers Francis, Tom Collins, and James Haskell have all been included in Chris Boyd’s starting line-up to face ASM Clermont Auvergne on Saturday, while lock Dom Barrow will make his Northampton Saints debut in Saturday’s European Challenge Cup curtain-raiser.
The men in Black, Green and Gold will bid for their third Challenge Cup title, having won the competition in 2009 and 2014 – the only two other seasons in which they have been involved.
A big test awaits Boyd’s men first up however, with Saturday’s opponents Clermont currently sitting at the summit of the Top14 standings in France after seven rounds across the Channel.
Saints welcomed the French giants to Franklin’s Gardens last season in the Champions Cup, and will hope to repeat the impressive 34-21 triumph they achieved back in January on Saturday (kick-off 3pm).
Director of rugby Boyd is able to welcome inside centre Francis back into the No.12 jersey after the 28-year-old successfully completed his return to play protocols this week.
Francis joins Andrew Kellaway in midfield, and despite the half-back axis of Dan Biggar and Cobus Reinach remaining unchanged, there are more adjustments in the back three with Collins regaining a starting berth.
Boyd sticks with the same front row that took to the field against Leicester Tigers last weekend, but Barrow will make his Club debut in the engine room after signing from Saints’ east-midlands rivals over the summer.
Haskell returns at flanker for the first time since mid-September to add some ballast to the back row, and there is room amongst the replacements for Academy lock Alex Moon – who will make his European debut should he enter the fray from the bench at Franklin’s Gardens.
Tickets are still available for Northampton Saints vs ASM Clermont Auvergne, which kicks off at 3pm on Saturday 13 October. Tickets are available from £32 for adults and £14 for juniors. To buy tickets now, please CLICK HERE.
NORTHAMPTON SAINTS vs ASM CLERMONT AUVERGNE
EPCR Challenge Cup, Round One
Saturday 13th October, 2018
15 Harry Mallinder
14 Ahsee Tuala
13 Andrew Kellaway
12 Piers Francis
11 Tom Collins
10 Dan Biggar
9 Cobus Reinach
Not available for selection:
Paul Hill (shoulder), Rory Hutchinson (knee), Toby Trinder (foot), Ken Pisi (shoulder), Heinrich Brüssow (concussion), Nafi Tuitavake (neck), Andy Symons (knee), Jamal Ford-Robinson (knee), Api Ratuniyarawa (ankle), Tom Emery (ankle) and Courtney Lawes (back)