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Saints announce strong side for Gallagher Premiership restart

Director of Rugby Chris Boyd has named his matchday 23 to take on Wasps on Sunday, with Northampton Saints’ league campaign finally set to resume after 163 days without rugby.

The men in Black, Green and Gold won 16-10 away at Worcester on their last Gallagher Premiership outing before the unexpected hiatus, and boast a good recent record against this weekend’s opponents – winning two of the last three meetings in the league between the two.

Club co-captain Teimana Harrison leads out Northampton at Franklin’s Gardens in the No.8 jersey and is joined at the back of the scrum by England’s Courtney Lawes and Lewis Ludlam, to create a back row of international pedigree.

David Ribbans makes his first appearance since January having recovered from an ankle injury which kept him out for three months at the start of the year, and is joined in the engine room by Fijian international lock Api Ratuniyarawa.

Meanwhile hooker Mikey Haywood will run out alongside props Paul Hill and Francois van Wyk to round off Saints’ pack.

Wales fly-half Dan Biggar starts in the No.10 jersey for the hosts with Alex Mitchell stepping up to start at scrum-half alongside him hoping to pull the strings for Northampton, while English duo Piers Francis and Fraser Dingwall are selected in the midfield.

And Boyd has opted for a versatile back three, with Harry Mallinder and Ahsee Tuala starting on the wings and George Furbank at fullback, to create a trio capable of filling in across the park.

“I’m really looking forward to seeing the boys get back out there finally,” said Boyd. “There will obviously be lots of energy and enthusiasm – whether they can play consistently at the pace that will be required will be the interesting bit.

“We had a good friendly hit out between us here at Franklin’s Gardens last week and the guys said it was a little eerie not having any supporters to cheer us on, and that will certainly be a bit of a challenge for us – but we’ll always want to protect the integrity of our own patch.

“Wasps showed how good a side they are at the back end of the last block of matches before the pandemic, with four or five wins on the bounce.

“They have a very optimistic side who play with a lot of energy and enthusiasm, and it’s fourth against fifth in the league so it should be a pretty decent ding-dong battle.”

NORTHAMPTON SAINTS vs WASPS
Gallagher Premiership, Round 14
Sunday 16 August 2020
Franklin’s Gardens
Kick-off: 3pm

15 George Furbank
14 Harry Mallinder
13 Fraser Dingwall
12 Piers Francis
11 Ahsee Tuala
10 Dan Biggar
9 Alex Mitchell

1 Francois van Wyk
2 Mikey Haywood
3 Paul Hill
4 David Ribbans
5 Api Ratuniyarawa
6 Courtney Lawes
7 Lewis Ludlam
8 Teimana Harrison (c)

Replacements:
16 Sam Matavesi
17 Danny Hobbs-Awoyemi
18 Owen Franks
19 Alex Coles
20 JJ Tonks
21 Henry Taylor
22 Matt Proctor
23 Taqele Naiyaravoro

Not available due to injury
Ollie Sleightholme (hamstring), Connor Tupai (wrist), Alex Waller (achilles), and Tom Wood (illness).