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Saints make seven changes for home showdown against Stade Rochelais

Fraser Dingwall, Courtnall Skosan, Callum Braley and Aaron Hinkley are among seven changes to Northampton Saints’ starting line-up this weekend ahead of the visit of Stade Rochelais in the Heineken Champions Cup.

The men in Black, Green and Gold will welcome the reigning European champions to cinch Stadium at Franklin’s Gardens on Saturday (kick-off: 1pm) looking to secure qualification for the knock-out rounds of the EPCR Challenge Cup.

Saints were beaten in La Rochelle in December in the first ever meeting between the sides, but have won seven of their last eight fixtures on home soil in all competitions, and will look to end their Champions Cup campaign on a high note.

Director of Rugby Phil Dowson makes three changes to Northampton’s back-line with Dingwall stepping into the centres alongside Rory Hutchinson, and scrum-half Callum Braley partnering Fin Smith in the half-back berths – after the 20-year-old No.10 was called into the England squad for the first time earlier this week.

England internationals George Furbank and Tommy Freeman keep their places at fullback and wing respectively, but Skosan starts on the other wing to round off the back three.

A new-look front row will pack down for Northampton, with props Ethan Waller and Ehren Painter either side of hooker Robbie Smith.

After starting Saints’ last three matches at flanker, Australia international Lukhan Salakaia-Loto shifts into the engine room to join David Ribbans.

Meanwhile Aaron Hinkley earns his first start since early December at openside, and lines up in the back row alongside Courtney Lawes and No.8 Lewis Ludlam.

Amongst the replacements for Saints, loosehead prop Danny Hobbs-Awoyemi is set for his second appearance of the season if he enters the action, while wing Ollie Sleightholme also makes his return from injury and will hope to make an impact from the bench.

NORTHAMPTON SAINTS vs STADE ROCHELAIS
Heineken Champions Cup, Pool B, Round 4
Saturday 21 January 2023
cinch Stadium at Franklin’s Gardens
Kick-off: 1pm

15 George Furbank
14 Tommy Freeman
13 Fraser Dingwall
12 Rory Hutchinson
11 Courtnall Skosan
10 Fin Smith
9 Callum Braley

1 Ethan Waller
2 Robbie Smith
3 Ehren Painter
4 Lukhan Salakaia-Loto
5 David Ribbans
6 Courtney Lawes
7 Aaron Hinkley
8 Lewis Ludlam (c)

Replacements:
16 Mike Haywood
17 Danny Hobbs-Awoyemi
18 Alfie Petch
19 Alex Coles
20 Angus Scott-Young
21 Tom James
22 Ollie Sleightholme
23 James Ramm

Not considered for selection:
Juarno Augustus, James Fish, James Grayson, Emmanuel Iyogun, Joel Matavesi and Sam Matavesi.

STADE ROCHELAIS TEAM TO FACE SAINTS:
15 Brice Dulin, 14 Dillyn Leyds, 13 UJ Seuteni, 12 Jules Favre, 11 Raymond Rhule, 10 Antoine Hastoy, 9 Tawera Kerr Barlow; 1 Reda Wardi, 2 Samuel Lagrange, 3 Uini Atonio, 4 Romain Sazy, 5 Rémi Picquette, 6 Levani Botia, 7 Remi Bourdeau, 8 Grégory Alldritt (c)
Replacements: 16 Quentin Lespiaucq Brettes, 17 Joel Sclavi, 18 Georges Henri Colombe, 19 Thomas Lavault, 20 Ultan Dillane, 21 Paul Boudehent, 22 Thomas Berjon, 23 Teddy Thomas

Referee: Andrea Piardi (ITA)
Assistant referees: Eoghan Cross and Dan Carson (IRE)
No.4: Ryan Collier (ENG)
TMO: Joy Neville (IRE)

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