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Boyd rings the changes for Benetton clash

Northampton Saints' director of rugby Chris Boyd has rung the changes ahead of this Sunday's Heineken Champions Cup clash against Benetton Rugby (kick-off 1pm), with Sam Matavesi and Harry Mallinder set to make their first starts of the season. 

After opening 2020 with a last-gasp win over Wasps in the Gallagher Premiership last weekend, the men in Black, Green and Gold return to Franklin's Gardens needing maximum points to keep their hopes of European qualification alive. 

And with Benetton heading to Northampton this Sunday, Saints will be looking to extend their 100% record over the Italian side as they attempt their sixth consecutive win.

Boyd has made four changes to the pack that helped to down Wasps last weekend, with Francois van Wyk, Api Ratuniyarawa and Lewis Ludlam coming back into the starting line-up while Matavesi will make his first start in Black, Green and Gold at hooker. 

Paul Hill and David Ribbans retain their spots to complete the tight five and Courtney Lawes stays on at No. 6 to link up with skipper Teimana Harrison in the back row.

And five more changes come in the backs for Boyd's men; starting together for the first time since early November, Henry Taylor and James Grayson take control of the half-back berths while Rory Hutchinson and Fraser Dingwall link up in the centres.

After scoring the winner for Saints last weekend, Taqele Naiyaravoro returns to the starting line-up to partner Mallinder, with the latter returning from injury to take his spot on the wing for the first time in his Saints career; and George Furbank rounds off the side at fullback as he starts his fourth straight game.

There are more welcome returns for Saints on the bench as James Fish and Ben Franks are primed to make their comebacks from injury with their first appearances since November. 

NORTHAMPTON SAINTS v BENETTON RUGBY
Heineken Champions Cup R5
Sunday 12 January, 2020
Franklin's Gardens
Kick-off 1pm

15 George Furbank
14 Harry Mallinder
13 Fraser Dingwall
12 Rory Hutchinson
11 Taqele Naiyaravoro
10 James Grayson
9 Henry Taylor

1  Francois van Wyk
2 Sam Matavesi
3 Paul Hill
4 Api Ratuniyarawa
5 David Ribbans
6 Courtney Lawes
7 Lewis Ludlam
8 Teimana Harrison (capt)

Replacements:
16 James Fish
17 Ben Franks
18 Owen Franks
19 Alex Coles
20 Mitch Eadie
21 Cobus Reinach
22 Andy Symons
23 Ollie Sleightholme

Not available for selection:
Alex Mitchell (knee), Reuben Bird-Tulloch (hand), Jamie Gibson (ankle),  Matt Proctor (concussion), Piers Francis (concussion) and Tom Collins (suspension).

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