Northampton Saints director of rugby Chris Boyd has handed five players their full Club debuts ahead of this weekend’s clash against Sale Sharks – with another three set for their first appearances in Black, Green and Gold off the bench.
Boyd’s side begin their defence of the Premiership Rugby Cup with a trip to the AJ Bell Stadium to face Sale, before locking horns with Wasps and Saracens in back-to-back home fixtures.
The Kiwi head coach has put faith in the Club’s youngsters for the first competitive match of the season, with an average age of just under 20 across the backline.
Former England 7s wing Ryan Olowofela makes his first competitive Saints start in the back three alongside Ollie Sleightholme and another debutant in fullback Tommy Freeman – who scored in last week’s preseason clash against Leinster.
Fraser Dingwall, back in a Saints jersey for the first time since skippering England under-20s at this summer’s Junior World Championship, starts at outside centre with summer signing Reuben Bird-Tulloch completing the midfield.
James Grayson – winner of last season’s Breakthrough Player award in this competition – will look to control the game in the No.10 jersey, and scrum-half Connor Tupai makes his first Club start after also catching the eye against Leinster.
In the pack, Ben Franks starts at loosehead prop for the first time in his Saints career, with Paul Hill at tighthead and hooker Michael van Vuuren primed for his full Club debut between them.
England under-20 international Alex Coles packs down in the engine room alongside serviceman Lewis Bean, making his full Club debut after impressing for the Wanderers last season.
And Teimana Harrison skippers the side from an experienced back row, with Tom Wood starting at blindside flanker and Mitch Eadie wearing the No.8 jersey.
Amongst the replacements loose forward Tui Uru, scrum-half Henry Taylor, and fly-half Tommy Mathews will all be ready to make Saints debuts off the bench – and the trio would take the tally of players in Saints’ first-team squad to make their first Northampton appearances in the Premiership Rugby Cup to 31.
SALE SHARKS vs NORTHAMPTON SAINTS
Premiership Rugby Cup, Round 1
Saturday 21 September, 2019
AJ Bell Stadium
15 Tommy Freeman
14 Ollie Sleightholme
13 Fraser Dingwall
12 Reuben Bird-Tulloch
11 Ryan OIowofela
10 James Grayson
9 Connor Tupai
1 Ben Franks
2 Michael van Vuuren
3 Paul Hill
4 Alex Coles
5 Lewis Bean
6 Tom Wood
7 Teimana Harrison (c)
8 Mitch Eadie
16 James Fish
17 Will Davis
18 Ehren Painter
19 Devante Onojaife
20 Tui Uru
21 Henry Taylor
22 Tommy Mathews
23 Fraser Strachan
Referee: Andrew Jackson
Assistant Referees: Tim Wigglesworth and Steve Lee
Not available for selection:
Andy Symons (knee), Harry Mallinder (knee), Dylan Hartley (knee), Alex Mitchell (knee), Reece Marshall (hamstring), Mikey Haywood (knee), Jamie Gibson (shoulder), Heinz Brüssow (ankle), and Paddy Ryan (knee)
Piers Francis (Eng), Courtney Lawes (Eng), Lewis Ludlam (Eng), Ahsee Tuala (Sam), Api Ratuniyarawa (Fiji), Dan Biggar (Wal) and Cobus Reinach (SA).