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Freeman and Skosan return for Saints as Mitchell hits century

Tommy Freeman and Courtnall Skosan both return to Northampton Saints’ line-up on Friday evening as the men in Black, Green and Gold welcome Exeter Chiefs to cinch Stadium at Franklin’s Gardens.

Director of Rugby Phil Dowson makes five changes in total to his starting XV for the Gallagher Premiership clash (kick-off: 7.45pm), with scrum-half Alex Mitchell also set to make his 100th appearance for the Club from amongst the replacements.

Saints have lost just once on home soil in all competitions since Chiefs last visited the Gardens in February, but with five of the last six meetings between Northampton and Exeter being decided by less than a score, supporters will expect another nail-biting encounter under the Friday Night Lights.

Centre Fraser Dingwall leads out the men in Black, Green and Gold with Rory Hutchinson also keeping his place in the hosts’ midfield after catching the eye last time out against Bristol.

But England international Freeman returns at fullback for Saints with Skosan also recalled to start on the opposite wing to the in-form Ollie Sleightholme – who has bagged six tries in seven appearances in the Premiership so far this term.

Tom James is selected from the start at scrum-half and partners No.10 Fin Smith for the first time, with the 20-year-old fly-half hoping to build on an impressive debut which saw him slot six kicks at goal without missing the target.

In the pack, tighthead prop Ehren Painter makes his first Premiership start of the season, and partners loosehead Emmanuel Iyogun and hooker Mike Haywood in the front row.

Northampton are unchanged in the engine room as Lukhan Salakaia-Loto and Alex Moon continue, but Angus Scott-Young comes into the back row to join Aaron Hinkley and Sam Graham – with the latter switching across into the No.8 jersey.

Alex Mitchell is primed to bring up a century of Saints appearances from the bench, with Northampton naming an explosive list of replacements including George Furbank, Matt Proctor, and Paul Hill – meanwhile a Premiership debut beckons for back row Kayde Sylvester if he enters the action.

NORTHAMPTON SAINTS vs EXETER CHIEFS
Gallagher Premiership Rugby, Round 9
Friday 4 November 2022
cinch Stadium at Franklin’s Gardens
Kick-off: 7.45pm

15 Tommy Freeman
14 Courtnall Skosan
13 Fraser Dingwall (c)
12 Rory Hutchinson
11 Ollie Sleightholme
10 Fin Smith
9 Tom James

1 Emmanuel Iyogun
2 Mike Haywood
3 Ehren Painter
4 Lukhan Salakaia-Loto
5 Alex Moon
6 Angus Scott-Young
7 Aaron Hinkley
8 Sam Graham

Replacements:
16 Robbie Smith
17 Alex Waller
18 Paul Hill
19 Brandon Nansen
20 Kayde Sylvester – Premiership debut
21 Alex Mitchell – 100th Saints appearance
22 George Furbank
23 Matt Proctor

Not considered for selection:
Matthew Arden, Juarno Augustus, Dan Biggar, James Grayson, Courtney Lawes, Lewis Ludlam, George Patten, and Karl Wilkins.

International duty:
Alex Coles (England), David Ribbans (England), and Sam Matavesi (Fiji).

Referee: Craig Maxwell-Keys
Assistant Referees: Mike Hudson and Jamie Leahy
No.4: Alex Thomas
TMO: Dean Richards

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