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Matavesi brings up Saints half-century in Gallagher Premiership showdown at Bath

Hooker Sam Matavesi will notch up his 50th Club appearance this weekend as Northampton Saints make the trip to Bath Rugby in Round 23 of the Gallagher Premiership.

Director of Rugby Chris Boyd makes three changes in total to his starting XV this weekend, with Ollie Sleightholme, Alex Coles and Teimana Harrison all returning to the line-up. The men in Black, Green and Gold travel to the West Country sitting sixth in the standings, with victory over the league’s bottom-side vital to maintain their challenge for the play-off places.

Northampton have not won at the Rec since 2015, but are on a run of three straight wins in the Premiership and also claimed a four-try bonus point in each of those victories. Following a 40-19 triumph at cinch Stadium at Franklin’s Gardens back in December, Saints are chasing a first season’s double over Bath since the 2015/16 campaign.

Boyd makes just one change to his back-line from the line-up which bowed out of the European Challenge Cup last weekend. Ollie Sleightholme comes onto the wing as part of a reshuffle which sees Tommy Freeman move to fullback to cover for George Furbank – who switches to fly-half with Dan Biggar serving a three-match ban.

Tom Collins continues on the other wing, while Rory Hutchinson and Matt Proctor are named in the midfield for Northampton for the second week running, and Alex Mitchell holds on to the No.9 jersey at scrum-half.

Flanker Lewis Ludlam will skipper Saints and is joined in the back row by No.8 Juarno Augustus and Teimana Harrison – who comes into the starting XV in place of Courtney Lawes after the England international was ruled out with a dislocated thumb.

The only other change to Northampton’s pack sees Alex Coles named in the engine room alongside Api Ratuniyarawa, as the front row of props Alex Waller and Paul Hill plus hooker Sam Matavesi starts together for the fourth straight Premiership match.

There’s a return from injury for Emmanuel Iyogun amongst the replacements for Saints, while the likes of Brandon Nansen, Tom James, James Grayson and Piers Francis will also be ready to make an impact off the bench for the visitors.

BATH RUGBY vs NORTHAMPTON SAINTS
Gallagher Premiership Rugby, Round 23
Saturday 23 April 2022
The Recreation Ground
Kick-off: 3pm

15 Tommy Freeman
14 Ollie Sleightholme
13 Matt Proctor
12 Rory Hutchinson
11 Tom Collins
10 George Furbank
9 Alex Mitchell

1 Alex Waller
2 Sam Matavesi
3 Paul Hill
4 Alex Coles
5 Api Ratuniyarawa
6 Lewis Ludlam (c)
7 Teimana Harrison
8 Juarno Augustus

Replacements:
16 Mike Haywood
17 Emmanuel Iyogun
18 Conor Carey
19 Alex Moon
20 Brandon Nansen
21 Tom James
22 James Grayson
23 Piers Francis

Not considered for selection:
Matthew Arden, Nick Auterac, Dan Biggar, Fraser Dingwall, Courtney Lawes, Ollie Newman, Ehren Painter, David Ribbans, Courtnall Skosan, Kayde Sylvester, Karl Wilkins, and Tom Wood.

Referee: Luke Pearce
Assistant referees: Joe James and Paul Dix
No.4: Shane Lewis
TMO: Dean Richards

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