Matt Proctor will bring up a half-century of appearances in Black, Green and Gold on Friday evening as Northampton Saints take on Harlequins.
The Gallagher Premiership’s third and fourth-placed sides lock horns at cinch Stadium at Franklin’s Gardens under the Friday Night Lights, with only a handful of tickets remaining for the clash.
Saints’ play-off destiny is back in their own hands after a remarkable come-from-behind win over Bath Rugby last weekend, and Northampton boast an impressive record against the Londoners on home soil in recent years – having won nine of the last ten meetings between the sides at the Gardens.
But after a reverse at Twickenham earlier this season against the defending champions, Chris Boyd’s side (which contains six changes to the line-up that started against Bath) will have to be at their best to turn that result around in front of a bumper Franklin’s Gardens crowd.
On his 50th appearance for the Club, Proctor starts on the wing as part of a back-line reshuffle which sees James Grayson start at fly-half and George Furbank switch to fullback.
Tommy Freeman lines up on the other wing, while Fraser Dingwall returns from injury to start in Northampton’s midfield outside Rory Hutchinson.
The in-form Alex Mitchell – Premiership player of the week in Round 23 – completes the back line and starts his 25th game of the season at scrum-half. No player has been directly involved in as many Premiership tries this term as Mitchell, with the No.9’s ten tries and 12 assists coming at an average of one every 65 minutes so far.
Courtney Lawes is the headline inclusion in Saints’ pack, with the England international shaking off a hand injury to start in the back row alongside skipper Lewis Ludlam and No.8 Juarno Augustus.
Alex Coles (making his 50th league appearance) and Api Ratuniyarawa line-up together in the engine room for the second straight match, but it’s all change in the front row as Emmanuel Iyogun and Conor Carey start either side of hooker Mike Haywood – with Sam Matavesi away with the Royal Navy this weekend.
Amongst the replacements for Saints there is a potential Club debut in store for triallist Aaron Hinkley, who featured for Northampton in a friendly against the British Army earlier this month, while the likes of Alex Waller, Paul Hill, Piers Francis and Ollie Sleightholme will all also hope to make an impact off the bench.
NORTHAMPTON SAINTS vs HARLEQUINS
Gallagher Premiership Rugby, Round 24
Friday 29 April 2022
cinch Stadium at Franklin’s Gardens
15 George Furbank
14 Matt Proctor – 50th Saints appearance
13 Fraser Dingwall
12 Rory Hutchinson
11 Tommy Freeman
10 James Grayson
9 Alex Mitchell
1 Emmanuel Iyogun
2 Mike Haywood
3 Conor Carey
4 Alex Coles – 50th Premiership appearance
5 Api Ratuniyarawa
6 Courtney Lawes
7 Lewis Ludlam (c)
8 Juarno Augustus
16 James Fish
17 Alex Waller
18 Paul Hill
19 Alex Moon
20 Aaron Hinkley – Club debut
21 Tom James
22 Piers Francis
23 Ollie Sleightholme
Not considered for selection:
Matthew Arden, Nick Auterac, Dan Biggar, Teimana Harrison, Sam Matavesi, Brandon Nansen, Ollie Newman, Ehren Painter, David Ribbans, Courtnall Skosan, Kayde Sylvester, and Tom Wood.
Referee: Matthew Carley
Assistant referees: Greg Macdonald and Wayne Falla
No.4: Charlie Gayther
TMO: Rowan Kitt