Director of rugby Chris Boyd has made four changes to Northampton Saints’ starting XV to take on Gloucester Rugby in Sunday’s Gallagher Premiership clash.
The men in Black, Green and Gold welcome the third-placed Cherry & Whites (kick-off 3pm) to Franklin’s Gardens, with the race for the league’s play-off places hitting fever pitch with just five rounds of the season to go.
"There’s an awful lot to play for and it’s going to come right down to the wire."Chris Boyd, director of rugby
Saints have been defeated just once in any tournament at Franklin’s Gardens since early December, and will be hoping to extend a run of home wins over Gloucester that stretches back to February 2013.
Boyd makes three changes in the pack to the side that played ASM Clermont Auvergne last weekend in the European Challenge Cup, with Reece Marshall coming in at hooker to replace the injured James Fish.
There’s another switch in the front row as Francois van Wyk starts at loosehead, but tighthead prop Paul Hill continues his run of starts.
Courtney Lawes moves up into the engine room to join Alex Moon, with flanker Heinrich Brüssow also selected alongside Lewis Ludlam and skipper Teimana Harrison in the back row.
Meanwhile Dan Biggar and Cobus Reinach will marshal Northampton’s back-line from the half-back berths, with Rory Hutchinson and Piers Francis – who scored his first Saints try when the sides met at Kingsholm in September – starting together in the midfield for the third straight week.
The only change to the backs sees Ahsee Tuala come in on the wing, with Taqele Naiyaravoro and George Furbank rounding off the line-up.
“When you look at the league as a whole there are a lot of teams in there that will be hunting five victories from their final matches,” said Boyd.
“That obviously doesn’t work mathematically; there’s an awful lot to play for and it’s going to come right down to the wire.
“Every game is vital and on any given day in the Premiership there’s not much between a top, a middle, or a bottom of the table side.”
NORTHAMPTON SAINTS vs GLOUCESTER RUGBY
Gallagher Premiership Rugby, Round 18
Sunday 7 April, 2019
15 George Furbank
14 Ahsee Tuala
13 Rory Hutchinson
12 Piers Francis
11 Taqele Naiyaravoro
10 Dan Biggar
9 Cobus Reinach
1 Francois Van Wyk
2 Reece Marshall
3 Paul Hill
4 Alex Moon
5 Courtney Lawes
6 Lewis Ludlam
7 Heinrich Brüssow
8 Teimana Harrison (c)
16 Darren Dawidiuk
17 Alex Waller
18 Ben Franks
19 Api Ratuniyarawa
20 Jamie Gibson
21 Alex Mitchell
22 Luther Burrell
23 Ken Pisi
Not available for selection:
Andy Symons (knee), Harry Mallinder (knee), Mikey Haywood (knee), Dylan Hartley (knee), Ehren Painter (calf), Paddy Ryan (knee), James Haskell (toe), Fraser Dingwall (ankle), David Ribbans (ankle), and James Fish (concussion).