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Eight changes as Saints take on Bristol Bears

Piers Francis and Taqele Naiyaravoro are among eight changes to Northampton Saints’ starting XV who take on Bristol Bears at Franklin’s Gardens this weekend.

The men in Black, Green and Gold will lock horns with the West Country outfit on home soil this Saturday (kick-off 2.45pm), having won their last seven home matches in all competitions.

Coming off the back of a disappointing loss to Saracens last weekend, Chris Boyd’s men will be looking to add an eighth consecutive victory at Franklin’s Gardens to their tally - where they have only lost once in the Gallagher Premiership since September.

Hooker Reece Marshall starts in an otherwise unchanged front row, packing down with Francois van Wyk and Paul Hill.

David Ribbans is joined in the second row by Alex Moon after the young lock impressed off the bench last time out.

Tom Wood, who skippers the side, links up with Lewis Ludlam and Mitch Eadie to complete the backrow. No.8 Eadie makes his first league start of the season.

George Furbank moves to fullback, with Ahsee Tuala and Taqele Naiyaravoro outside him on the wings.

Piers Francis comes back into to the side from injury to form a centre partnership with Rory Hutchinson, who was named Gallagher Premiership Player of the Month for February earlier this week.

Also returning is scrum-half Cobus Reinach, who starts in the half-backs with fit-again James Grayson named outside him at fly-half.

Saints will look to add some fire-power to the latter stages of the game, with the youth of James Fish, Tom Collins and Alex Mitchell ready to make an impact from the bench, while Jamal Ford-Robinson is set to make his first league appearance in almost a year.

“We're certainly pleased to be back home. We love playing here in front of our supporters and we certainly want to continue our winning run here," said Boyd.

"I don't think there's any doubt that, if the weather conditions are right, both sides will play with a degree of optimism. Bristol will come up here knowing that they're not going to be able to defend by their posts and win. They're going to have to go out there and win it and I think we're going to have to do exactly the same."

NORTHAMPTON SAINTS v BRISTOL BEARS
Gallagher Premiership Rugby, Round 16
Saturday 9 March 2019
Franklin’s Gardens
Kick-off: 2.45pm

15 George Furbank
14 Ahsee Tuala
13 Rory Hutchinson
12 Piers Francis
11 Taqele Naiyaravoro
10 James Grayson
9 Cobus Reinach

1 Francois van Wyk
2 Reece Marshall
3 Paul Hill
4 Alex Moon
5 David Ribbans
6 Tom Wood (capt)
7 Lewis Ludlam
8 Mitch Eadie

16 James Fish
17 Alex Waller
18 Jamal Ford-Robinson
19 Api Ratuniyarawa
20 Jamie Gibson
21 Alex Mitchell
22 Luther Burrell
23 Tom Collins

Not available for selection:
Andy Symons (knee), Harry Mallinder (knee), Mikey Haywood (knee), Dylan Hartley (knee), Teimana Harrison (hamstring), Ehren Painter (calf), Courtney Lawes (calf), Paddy Ryan (knee), James Haskell (toe) and Fraser Dingwall (ankle).

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