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Furbank skippers Saints for East Midlands Derby

George Furbank will lead out Northampton Saints at Mattioli Woods Welford Road this weekend when the men in Black, Green and Gold face East Midlands rivals Leicester Tigers.

Saints have won on four of their last seven Derby visits to Leicester in all competitions, but have found life on the road in the Gallagher Premiership difficult this term with just one win in the league so far.

Tigers meanwhile have lost just one of their last seventeen home games in the competition, but with the sides deadlocked in sixth (Northampton) and seventh (Leicester) on 29 points, Saturday’s clash (kick-off: 2pm, live on BT Sport) could prove pivotal in the race for the play-offs.

As a result of injuries, suspensions and international call-ups, Director of Rugby Phil Dowson makes ten changes to Saints’ side which started last weekend against Stade Rochelais – with Furbank preferred at fly-half and entrusted with captaincy duties ahead of the blockbuster clash.

Tom James will start alongside him at scrum-half, making his 50th appearance for Northampton, while Matt Proctor returns to the visitors’ midfield to join Scotland centre Rory Hutchinson.

Two further changes come in the back-three; James Ramm is selected at full-back, with Ollie Sleightholme earning his first start in the league since November, and Courtnall Skosan continuing on the other wing.

Juarno Augustus returns from a hamstring injury to make his first appearance of 2023 for Northampton, and the South African No.8 lines up alongside Angus Scott-Young and Aaron Hinkley in the back row.

Alex Moon, statistically the Gallagher Premiership’s top tackler so far this season with a 92% success rate and 142 to his name, is selected in the engine room with England international Alex Coles.

Alex Waller starts at loosehead prop to make his 26th appearance against Leicester – tying the record held jointly by Alf Chalmers (1898-1911) and Tom Harris (1924-1937) for most East Midlands Derbies for Saints. He packs down with Paul Hill and hooker Mike Haywood in the front row.

Meanwhile, amongst the replacements Northampton opt for a 6-2 split, with Brandon Nansen, Karl Wilkins and Sam Graham all hoping to bring some physicality off the bench, and Tom Litchfield primed for his first league appearance since October if he enters the action.

LEICESTER TIGERS vs NORTHAMPTON SAINTS
Gallagher Premiership Rugby, Round 16
Saturday 28 January 2023
Mattioli Woods Welford Road
Kick-off: 2pm

15 James Ramm
14 Courtnall Skosan
13 Matt Proctor
12 Rory Hutchinson
11 Ollie Sleightholme
10 George Furbank (c)
9 Tom James – 50th Saints Appearance

1 Alex Waller
2 Mike Haywood
3 Paul Hill
4 Alex Moon
5 Alex Coles
6 Angus Scott-Young
7 Aaron Hinkley
8 Juarno Augustus

Replacements:
16 Robbie Smith
17 Ethan Waller
18 Alfie Petch
19 Brandon Nansen
20 Karl Wilkins
21 Sam Graham
22 Callum Braley
23 Tom Litchfield

Not considered for selection:
Tom Collins, Fraser Dingwall, James Fish, Emmanuel Iyogun, Courtney Lawes, Joel Matavesi, Sam Matavesi and Lukhan Salakaia-Loto
.

International Duty:
Tommy Freeman, Lewis Ludlam, Alex Mitchell, David Ribbans, and Fin Smith (all England).

TIGERS TEAM TO PLAY SAINTS:
15 Freddie Burns, 14 Anthony Watson, 13 Matt Scott, 12 Guy Porter, 11 Harry Potter, 10 Handré Pollard, 9 Sam Edwards; 1 James Whitcombe, 2 Julián Montoya, 3 Will Hurd, 4 Harry Wells, 5 Eli Snyman, 6 Hanro Liebenberg (c), 7 Tommy Reffell, 8 Jasper Wiese
Replacements: 16 Charlie Clare, 17 Tom West, 18 Dan Richardson, 19 George Martin, 20 Olly Cracknell, 21 Tom Whiteley, 22 Jimmy Gopperth, 23 Harry Simmons

Referee: Wayne Barnes
Assistant referees: Jack Makepeace and Wayne Falla
No.4: Andrew Jackson
TMO: Rowan Kitt

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