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North, Burrell, Groom, and Brüssow in for Saints

Travis PerkinsSponsored by Travis Perkins

Northampton Saints have made four changes to their starting XV as they look to get back to winning ways in the Aviva Premiership against London Irish on Saturday.

The hosts will be looking to put last weekend’s frustrating away loss to Bath Rugby swiftly behind them, as they return to Franklin’s Gardens (kick-off 3pm) where they are unbeaten in 2018.

London Irish have only won once at the home of Saints since 2004, and technical coaching consultant Alan Gaffney and interim head coach Alan Dickens will be keen to keep that record intact with Northampton looking to climb the league standings.

Three changes to Saints backline sees George North return from international duty on the wing, Nic Groom restored to the No.9 jersey, and inside centre Luther Burrell make his first appearance following a five-week injury layoff.

With Harry Mallinder retained by England throughout the week he is not involved in the matchday squad, and Piers Francis remains at fly-half.

The pack is almost identical to that which lined up at the Rec last weekend, with the front row unchanged ahead of Api Ratuniyarawa and skipper Christian Day in the engine room.

But there is one switch in a rejigged back-row; Jamie Gibson moves into the No.6 jersey to make room for Heinrich Brüssow, with the tenacious Springbok making his first Saints start at openside flanker.

Teimana Harrison remains at No.8 while there is room for Stephen Myler amongst the replacements, with Tom Wood and Cobus Reinach also moving to the bench.

And while London Irish have not won in the league since the opening day of the season, Gaffney is adamant that Saints will not make the mistake of underestimating their opponents.

“It's going to be a really important game and the most important thing for us is that we give London Irish respect,” he said.

“In rugby, whoever you are playing, you've got to show them respect and we will show them the utmost respect as we are only sitting two places above them in the table.

“We know this is a very important game for us; we're still aiming for the top six at worst and we've got to get our process right to go out and win games.”

SAINTS V LONDON IRISH TEAM NEWS
Aviva Premiership Rugby, Round 15
Franklin’s Gardens
Saturday 17th February, 2018
Kick-off: 3pm

SAINTSLONDON IRISH

15 Ahsee Tuala
14 George North
13 Rob Horne
12 Luther Burrell
11 Ben Foden
10 Piers Francis
9 Nic Groom

1 Campese Ma’afu
2 Mikey Haywood
3 Kieran Brookes
4 Api Ratuniyarawa
5 Christian Day (capt)
6 Jamie Gibson
7 Heinrich Brüssow
8 Teimana Harrison 

Replacements:
16 Reece Marshall
17 Francois van Wyk
18 Jamal Ford-Robinson
19 David Ribbans
20 Tom Wood
21 Cobus Reinach
22 Stephen Myler
23 Nafi Tuitavake 

15 James Marshall
14 Joe Cokanasiga
13 Tom Fowlie
12 Luke McLean
11 Alex Lewington
10 Greig Tonks
9 Piet van Zyl

1 Ben Franks
2 David Paice
3 Ollie Hoskins
4 Franco van der Merwe (capt)
5 Teofilo Paulo
6 Arno Botha
7 Max Northcote-Green
8 Ofisa Treviranus

Replacements:
16 Dave Porecki
17 Harry Elrington
18 Petrus Du Plessis
19 Sebastian De Chaves
20 Conor Gilsenan
21 Scott Steele
22 Tommy Bell
23 Aseli Tikoirotuma

 

Injury update:
Alex Waller and James Craig are unavailable for selection.

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