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Lawes, Mitchell, Hutchinson and Augustus return for Saints as Munster head to Northampton

Courtney Lawes, Rory Hutchinson, Alex Mitchell and Juarno Augustus all return to Northampton Saints’ starting line-up this weekend as Director of Rugby Phil Dowson makes six changes to his side to face Munster Rugby.

With Saints and Munster losing out on the first weekend of Heineken Champions Cup action to Stade Rochelais and Toulouse respectively, Sunday’s clash at cinch Stadium at Franklin’s Gardens is a must-win for both sides.

A repeat of the 2000 Heineken Cup final, Saints have won two of their six meetings with Munster over the years, with their last victory over the Irish province coming on Munster’s last visit to Northampton in 2009.

Lewis Ludlam captains the men in Black, Green and Gold in the back row, switching back to flanker alongside England international Lawes to make room for Augustus to pull on the No.8 jersey.

The heavyweight pairing of Lukhan Salakaia-Loto and David Ribbans continue in the engine room for the hosts, but there are two further changes in the front row as tighthead prop Ehren Painter and hooker Sam Matavesi are selected from the start, packing down with Alex Waller at loosehead.

Scrum-half Mitchell returns to the starting XV and partners No.10 Fin Smith, with Scotland international Hutchinson coming into the midfield to join Matt Proctor.

Saints’ back three however is unchanged from last weekend’s trip to France, as England internationals Tommy Freeman and George Furbank line up with James Ramm – who scored on his European debut in La Rochelle.

Amongst the replacements Northampton opt for a 6-2 split; the likes of Aaron Hinkley, Angus Scott-Young and Alex Moon will look to provide some ballast off the bench, while Fraser Dingwall and former Italy international Callum Braley could also enter the action.

NORTHAMPTON SAINTS vs MUNSTER RUGBY
Heineken Champions Cup, Round 2
Sunday 18 December 2022
cinch Stadium at Franklin’s Gardens
Kick-off: 1pm

15 George Furbank
14 James Ramm
13 Matt Proctor
12 Rory Hutchinson
11 Tommy Freeman
10 Fin Smith
9 Alex Mitchell

1 Alex Waller
2 Sam Matavesi
3 Ehren Painter
4 Lukhan Salakaia-Loto
5 David Ribbans
6 Courtney Lawes
7 Lewis Ludlam (c)
8 Juarno Augustus

Replacements:
16 Mikey Haywood
17 Emmanuel Iyogun
18 Alfie Petch
19 Alex Moon
20 Angus Scott-Young
21 Aaron Hinkley
22 Callum Braley
23 Fraser Dingwall

Not considered for selection:
Matthew Arden, Alex Coles, James Fish, Sam Graham, James Grayson, Paul Hill and Ollie Sleightholme.

MUNSTER SIDE TO FACE SAINTS
15 Mike Haley, 14 Calvin Nash, 13 Antoine Frisch, 12 Jack Crowley, 11 Keith Earls, 10 Joey Carbery, 9 Conor Murray; 1 Jeremy Loughman, 2 Niall Scannell, 3 John Ryan, 4 Jean Kleyn, 5 Tadhg Beirne, 6 Jack O’Donoghue, 7 Peter O’Mahony (c), 8 Gavin Coombes.
Replacements: 16 Diarmuid Barron, 17 Dave Kilcoyne, 18 Roman Salanoa, 19 John Hodnett, 20 Alex Kendellen, 21 Craig Casey, 22 Rory Scannell, 23 Shane Daly.

Referee: Pierre-Baptiste Nuchy (FRA)
Assistant referees: Jonathan Gasnier (FRA) and Kévin Bralley
No.4: Gareth Holsgrove (ENG)
TMO: Eric Briquet-Campin (FRA)

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