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Lawes captains Saints for crunch Clermont clash

Courtney Lawes will lead out Northampton Saints for their crucial European Challenge Cup clash at ASM Clermont Auvergne on Saturday, with Chris Boyd making four changes to his starting line-up.

Northampton, who are seeking their first-ever win at the Stade Marcel-Michelin, sit second in Pool One behind their French rivals – but a victory will keep them in the hunt for automatic qualification for the knock-out stages of the competition.

Saints have won 15 of their last 16 Challenge Cup games, lifting the trophy twice; with their only defeat in that run coming against Clermont this season.

Lawes skippers the side but as director of rugby Boyd shuffles his pack, the England international moves into the back row to play alongside No.8 Teimana Harrison and flanker Heinrich Brüssow – who makes his first start since September.

That means there is room in the second row for Fiji international Api Ratuniyarawa, who partners David Ribbans in the engine room, while a third change in the forwards division sees James Fish come in at hooker.

But Francois van Wyk and Ehren Painter will both pack down again as the pair of props are retained following last weekend’s clash with Wasps.

Scrum-half Alex Mitchell comes into the No.9 jersey in the only change to Saints’ back-line, with Wales international Dan Biggar lining up inside him once more after a string of stellar performances in recent weeks.

Fraser Dingwall and Luther Burrell make up the Northampton midfield, with fullback Ahsee Tuala and wings Tom Collins and Taqele Naiyaravoro completing the XV in the back three.

And Saints’ exciting bench includes the likes of Cobus Reinach, James Grayson and Andrew Kellaway, while Lewis Ludlam and Tom Wood will also look to make an impact if they are thrown into the fray.

Tickets are still available for Northampton’s next home match at Franklin’s Gardens, which sees Saints host Timisoara Saracens to round off the European Challenge Cup pool stages. Prices start from just £20 for adults or £10 for juniors; to buy now please CLICK HERE.

ASM CLERMONT AUVERGNE v NORTHAMPTON SAINTS
European Challenge Cup, Round Five
Saturday 12 January, 2019
Stade Marcel-Michelin
Kick-off: 9pm (local time)

15. Ahsee Tuala
14. Tom Collins
13. Fraser Dingwall
12. Luther Burrell
11. Taqele Naiyaravoro
10. Dan Biggar
9. Alex Mitchell

1. Francois van Wyk
2. James Fish
3. Ehren Painter
4. David Ribbans
5. Api Ratuniyarawa
6. Courtney Lawes (capt)
7. Heinrich Brüssow
8. Teimana Harrison

Replacements:
16. Reece Marshall
17. Alex Waller
18. Ben Franks
19. Tom Wood
20. Lewis Ludlam
21. Cobus Reinach
22. James Grayson
23. Andrew Kellaway

Not available for selection:
Ken Pisi (shoulder), Nafi Tuitavake (neck), Andy Symons (knee), Harry Mallinder (knee), James Haskell (ankle), James Craig (concussion), Tom Emery (shoulder), Mikey Haywood (knee), Dylan Hartley (knee), Piers Francis (shoulder), and Jamie Gibson (head).

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