Taqele Naiyaravoro, Andrew Symons, Will Davis and Charlie Davies will all make their competitive Club debuts this evening as Northampton Wanderers kick-off their Premiership Rugby Shield campaign at Leicester Tigers.
Wandies, led by academy head coach Mark Hopley and academy manager Simon Sinclair, are looking to make it a sensational hat-trick of titles in the competition after lifting the trophy in 2016 and 2017.
The side won 11 of their 12 matches last term and will be looking for a fast start again at Loughborough University (kick-off 7.30pm), where they face local rivals Leicester Tigers for the first time this season.
New recruit Naiyaravoro headlines an explosive back three after landing in the UK from the Sydney-based Waratahs over the weekend, while Harry Mallinder leads the side from fullback and wing Ollie Sleightholme gets a start.
England Under-20 international Fraser Dingwall joins Symons – who arrived at Franklin’s Gardens from Gloucester Rugby over the summer – in the centres.
Meanwhile another new signing in scrum-half Davies links up with James Grayson, the only player in the Northampton squad who also played at Gloucester over the weekend in the Gallagher Premiership.
Former Ealing Trailfinder Davis makes his first competitive start for Northampton in the front row and is joined by the fit again Mikey Haywood and Jamal Ford-Robinson.
Bedford’s Ed Taylor and Devante Onojaife will make up a youthful, yet powerful engine room, with back-rowers Joe Wallace, Paddy Ryan, and Mitch Eadie completing the pack.
Joe Gray will bring some experience off a bench bursting with academy talent, with the likes of Connor Tupai, Matt Worley, George Furbank, and Ollie Newman hoping to catch the eye in the second half.
“We want to win every piece of silverware available to us, but while we’ve had plenty of success in this competition over the last couple of years this is a totally new squad and we are starting afresh,” said Hopley.
“This is a great competition, and tonight is a great opportunity both for some players to return to match fitness and for our younger guys to gain experience playing at this level.
“We’re also relishing the prospect of a local derby against Leicester, and the boys are keen to lay down a marker for the whole squad ahead of our Gallagher Premiership clash with Tigers at Twickenham in a few weeks’ time.”
LEICESTER TIGERS v NORTHAMPTON WANDERERS
Premiership Rugby Shield, Round 1
Monday 3 September, 2018
15 Harry Mallinder (c)
14 Taqele Naiyaravoro
13 Fraser Dingwall
12 Andrew Symons
11 Ollie Sleightholme
10 James Grayson
9 Charlie Davies
1 Will Davis
2 Mikey Haywood
3 Jamal Ford-Robinson
4 Ed Taylor*
5 Devante Onojaife
6 Joe Wallace
7 Paddy Ryan
8 Mitch Eadie
16 Joe Gray
17 Hayden King*
18 Ziana Alexis*
19 Freddie Betteridge*
20 Ollie Newman
21 Connor Tupai
22 Matt Worley
23 George Furbank