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Lawes, Smith, Ribbans and Hutchinson return for Saints’ trip to Munster

Director of Rugby Phil Dowson has made four changes to his Northampton Saints side ahead of the men in Black, Green and Gold’s trip to Munster on Saturday afternoon.

Courtney Lawes, Fin Smith, David Ribbans and Rory Hutchinson all return to the starting line-up for what is a do-or-die Heineken Champions Cup pool match for Northampton.

Saints travel to Thomond Park for the first time in over a decade having never won at the famous ground; the visitors were undone by a last-minute drop goal on their last visit in 2011, but after running Munster close at cinch Stadium at Franklin’s Gardens in December, Northampton will be optimistic they can reverse that result and record an historic win.

Lewis Ludlam will lead out the men in Black, Green and Gold wearing the No.8 jersey, with international centurion Lawes starting alongside him in the back row, and Lukhan Salakaia-Loto preferred at flanker for the third straight match.

David Ribbans recovers from the injury which ruled him out of Saints’ defeat at Exeter Chiefs last weekend, and joins Alex Moon in the visitors’ engine room.

Northampton’s front row – dominant at scrum time down at Sandy Park – remains unchanged with loosehead prop Alex Waller and tighthead prop Paul Hill packing down either side of Mike Haywood at hooker.

Fly-half Smith pulls on the No.10 shirt for Saints and will look to pull the strings with scrum-half Alex Mitchell over in Ireland.

That means George Furbank switches back to fullback with Tommy Freeman moving onto the wing, while James Ramm keeps his spot in Northampton’s back three.

The only other change to the backline sees Rory Hutchinson preferred at inside centre with Matt Proctor, who scored his third try of the season last weekend, continuing outside the Scotland international in Saints’ midfield.

Amongst the replacements, the likes of Alex Coles, Angus Scott-Young, Fraser Dingwall, and Courtnall Skosan will hope to make an impact if they enter the action off the bench.

MUNSTER RUGBY vs NORTHAMPTON SAINTS
Heineken Champions Cup, Pool B, Round 3
Saturday 14 January 2023
Thomond Park
Kick-off: 3.15pm

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

1 Alex Waller
2 Mike Haywood
3 Paul Hill
4 David Ribbans
5 Alex Moon
6 Lukhan Salakaia-Loto
7 Courtney Lawes
8 Lewis Ludlam (c)

Replacements:
16 Robbie Smith
17 Ethan Waller
18 Alfie Petch
19 Alex Coles
20 Angus Scott-Young
21 Callum Braley
22 Fraser Dingwall
23 Courtnall Skosan

Not considered for selection:
Juarno Augustus, James Fish, James Grayson, Emmanuel Iyogun and Sam Matavesi.

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

Referee: Tual Trainini (FRA)
Assistant referees: Adrien Descottes and Christophe Bultet (FRA)
No.4: Mike Scanlon (IRE)
TMO: Eric Gauzins (FRA)

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