Alex Waller will lead out Northampton Saints for the first time as Club co-captain with Chris Boyd today naming his squad to take on Gloucester Rugby on Saturday.
Fly-half Dan Biggar, flanker James Haskell and prop Ben Franks all make their first competitive appearances in Black, Green and Gold at Kingsholm (kick-off 2pm), while hooker James Fish will run out for the first time in the Gallagher Premiership after scoring six tries in three preseason matches.
England captain Dylan Hartley headlines a bench packed with both experience and youth as new director of rugby Boyd goes in search of an opening league victory following preseason wins over Ospreys, Dragons and Glasgow Warriors.
Ahsee Tuala continues his run at fullback after starting 11 of Saints’ last 12 matches last season, with danger-men Nafi Tuitavake and Tom Collins looking to cause the Cherry & Whites trouble on the wings.
There’s a familiar look to Northampton’s midfield with England internationals Piers Francis and Luther Burrell named in the centres, but British & Irish Lion Biggar will line-up alongside Cobus Reinach in the Premiership for the first time.
Waller, Fish and Franks pack down together again after an accomplished showing from the front three against Glasgow, while two towering locks in David Ribbans and Courtney Lawes provide plenty of height in Saints’ second row.
Meanwhile Teimana Harrison and Heinrich Brüssow join Haskell in the back row to complete an unchanged pack from the side that beat the Scots 41-15 at Franklin’s Gardens last Friday.
Hartley, Api Ratuniyarawa, Francois van Wyk and Ken Pisi – who scored a crucial try the last time these sides met – provide experience from the bench, while four Saints Academy graduates in Lewis Ludlam, Ehren Painter, James Grayson and Alex Mitchell will also look to make their mark in the second half.
Director of rugby Boyd said: “Johan [Ackermann] was a revelation in South Africa and did extremely well with the Lions; he introduced a new style of rugby, and I can see a lot of his traits in the way that Gloucester play – plus [Danny] Cipriani is a very good signing for them as he likes that style.
“So I think that makes them a very dangerous side, and a lot of people are expecting them to be successful this year.
“I’m probably too old to get nervous now, but I just want to make sure that when we get to Saturday as a coaching group we’ve done everything we can, left no stone unturned, and given the players all the preparation they need to go into the game. It’s up to them then to bring the performance.”
GLOUCESTER RUGBY v NORTHAMPTON SAINTS
Gallagher Premiership Rugby, Round 1
Saturday 1st September, 2018
15 Ahsee Tuala
14 Nafi Tuitavake
13 Luther Burrell
12 Piers Francis
11 Tom Collins
10 Dan Biggar
9 Cobus Reinach
1 Alex Waller (co-captain)
2 James Fish
3 Ben Franks
4 David Ribbans
5 Courtney Lawes
6 James Haskell
7 Heinrich Brüssow
8 Teimana Harrison
16 Dylan Hartley (co-captain)
17 Francois van Wyk
18 Ehren Painter
19 Api Ratuniyarawa
20 Lewis Ludlam
21 Alex Mitchell
22 James Grayson
23 Ken Pisi
Not available for selection:
Dom Barrow (hamstring), Alex Coles (knee), James Craig (concussion), Paul Hill (shoulder), Rory Hutchinson (knee), Reece Marshall (foot), Samson Ma'asi (ankle), Alex Moon (wrist), Toby Trinder (foot) and Tom Wood (groin).