Matt Proctor, George Furbank and Ahsee Tuala all return to Northampton Saints’ backline this weekend as Director of Rugby, Chris Boyd, names his side to face Exeter Chiefs.
The Men in Black, Green and Gold travel to Devon with three consecutive wins behind them seeking their first triumph over the European and Gallagher Premiership champions since 2018.
Saints sit fifth on the congested league ladder with Chiefs second heading into the fixture, and Boyd makes five changes in total to his starting XV from the side that beat Wasps a fortnight ago.
England international Furbank slots into the No.10 jersey for Northampton for only the third time in his professional career, having impressed against Leinster in the Heineken Champions Cup earlier this season, and is partnered by scrum-half Alex Mitchell.
Centres Piers Francis and Rory Hutchinson start together in Saints’ midfield for the third straight match, with Ollie Sleightholme also continuing on the wing while Proctor and Tuala return to complete the back three.
Lock David Ribbans scored an explosive try-double when Saints met Exeter back in September; he starts in the engine room alongside Api Ratuniyarawa, who has shaken off the calf injury which kept him out of the victory at Wasps.
Northampton’s back row however is completely unchanged with No.8 Shaun Adendorff – who has three tries to his name in his last two appearances – packing down with flankers Nick Isiekwe and co-captain Lewis Ludlam.
Meanwhile Boyd will also have the likes of Tom Wood, Henry Taylor, Harry Mallinder and Taqele Naiyaravoro to unleash off the bench at Sandy Park.
The Kiwi head coach said: “We know that going to play Exeter, in Exeter, is probably as hard as it gets for anyone at the moment. They have a few guys missing through the internationals or through injury, so they’re not at full strength, but nor are we.
“We’ll go down there knowing it’s the toughest assignment we have, but we go down there with the ambition to win, as we always do.”
EXETER CHIEFS vs NORTHAMPTON SAINTS
Gallagher Premiership Rugby, Round 10
Saturday 20 February 2021
15 Ahsee Tuala
14 Matt Proctor
13 Rory Hutchinson
12 Piers Francis
11 Ollie Sleightholme
10 George Furbank
9 Alex Mitchell
1 Alex Waller (co-capt)
2 Sam Matavesi
3 Ehren Painter
4 David Ribbans
5 Api Ratuniyarawa
6 Nick Isiekwe
7 Lewis Ludlam (co-capt)
8 Shaun Adendorff
Referee: Christophe Ridley
Assistant Referees: Dean Richards & Phil Watters
No.4: Peter Brunt
TMO: Keith Lewis