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McParland makes first Premiership start as Saints head to Bristol

Archie McParland will make his first start in the Gallagher Premiership when the league gets back underway this week, as Northampton Saints travel to Bristol Bears on Friday (22 March, kick-off: 7.45pm). 

The 19-year-old scrum-half has been flying high for England Under-20s throughout the Six Nations – scoring a debut try against Wales before helping England to the Championship title in Pau last weekend – and starts at Ashton Gate as Northampton begin the run-in. 

Saints – who sit at the top of the Premiership table – last featured in the league back in January, where Northampton defeated Newcastle Falcons 38-13 to claim their sixth straight league win and tenth consecutive victory across all competitions. 

England internationals Alex Coles and Fin Smith return to Saints’ starting line-up after featuring during the Six Nations, where 21-year-old Smith earned his maiden cap against Italy in the tournament opener. While Fraser Dingwall is also set to make his Saints return from amongst the replacements, with Tommy Freeman and Alex Mitchell both given a week’s rest. 

Club captain Lewis Ludlam leads the side against Bristol, with flanker Courtney Lawes and No. 8 Sam Graham joining him in Saints’ back row. 

Emmanuel Iyogun and Trevor Davison pack down in the front row for the third week running, while Sam Matavesi returns to start for Saints after spending last week with the Navy. And Saints name an all international second row, with Coles joining Fiji’s Temo Mayanavanua in the engine room. 

McParland and Smith partner in the half-back berths for the first time since Saints last faced Bristol in the league back in October, while Rory Hutchinson and Burger Odendaal man Northampton’s centres. 

James Ramm and George Hendy will feature in their first Premiership outing in 2024 after making their injury returns against Sale Sharks last week, to start at wing and fullback respectively – while Ollie Sleightholme starts on Saints’ other wing to complete the starting line-up. 

And there is space for the likes of Curtis Langdon, Paul Hill, Juarno Augustus and Tom Litchfield amongst Saints’ replacements. While Alex Waller is set to become Saints’ joint eighth most-capped player ever should he enter the action at Ashton Gate, moving level with Northampton Hall of Famer David Powell on 370 appearances. 

BRISTOL BEARS vs NORTHAMPTON SAINTS
Gallagher Premiership, Round 13
Friday 22 March, 2024
Ashton Gate
Kick-off: 7.45pm

15 George Hendy
14 James Ramm
13 Burger Odendaal
12 Rory Hutchinson
11 Ollie Sleightholme
10 Fin Smith
9 Archie McParland

1 Emmanuel Iyogun
2 Sam Matavesi
3 Trevor Davison
4 Temo Mayanavanua
5 Alex Coles
6 Courtney Lawes
7 Lewis Ludlam (c)
8 Sam Graham

Replacements:
16 Curtis Langdon
17 Alex Waller
18 Paul Hill
19 Tom Lockett
20 Juarno Augustus
21 Jake Garside
22 Fraser Dingwall
23 Tom Litchfield

Not available for selection:
Callum Braley, George Furbank, Tom James, Elliot Millar Mills and Tom Seabrook.

Referee: Craig Maxwell-Keys
Assistant referees: Tom Foley and John Meredith
No. 4: Paul Dix
TMO: Rowan Kitt

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