Director of Rugby Phil Dowson has named his Northampton Saints side to face Saracens in the Gallagher Premiership semi-finals this weekend, with James Ramm and Robbie Smith both fit to return to the matchday 23.
The men in Black, Green and Gold travel to StoneX Stadium on Saturday afternoon (kick-off: 3.30pm) having reached the play-offs for the second consecutive season, but will be looking to go even further than last year by beating the league’s top-ranked side away from home.
Saints won their last away match of the season in Newcastle, and triumphed over this weekend’s opponents at cinch Stadium at Franklin’s Gardens the week beforehand – but with only one of the last 14 Premiership semi-finals being won by the away side on the day, and with Saracens unbeaten in their last 15 home matches in the league, Northampton know they will have to tear up the form guide in north London.
Club captain Lewis Ludlam will once again lead out Northampton on Saturday, with the England flanker joined in the back row by No.8 Juarno Augustus – who has made more metres (725) with ball in hand than any other forward in the Premiership this season.
Courtney Lawes brings up a milestone in the back row for Saints as he makes his 165th start in the Premiership, taking him past Stephen Myler (164) to a Club record tally of league starts.
David Ribbans and Alex Moon continue their partnership in the engine room for Northampton, starting together for the fourth straight Premiership match, while in the front row props Alex Waller and Trevor Davison pack down either side of hooker Tom Cruse.
The men in Black, Green and Gold scored 11 more tries than any Premiership side this season at an average of 4.2 per game, and will need the back-line on fire again this weekend if they are to topple Saracens.
Fin Smith starts in the No.10 jersey for Northampton, with Alex Mitchell named at scrum-half having also been named in BT Sport’s Dream Team for the 2022/23 season earlier this week.
Another Dream Team inclusion, Fraser Dingwall, is selected in the midfield and partners inside centre Rory Hutchinson – meanwhile fit-again Ramm joins the back three on the wing, with Tommy Freeman continuing on the other side of the pitch and George Furbank rounding off the starting line-up at fullback.
For the second straight league match Northampton opt for a 6-2 split amongst the replacements, with Tom James and Tom Collins covering the backline, and Robbie Smith, Ethan Waller, Paul Hill, Lukhan Salakaia-Loto, Angus Scott-Young, and Sam Graham all hoping to make an impact and add some ballast off the bench.
SARACENS vs NORTHAMPTON SAINTS
Gallagher Premiership Rugby, Semi-Final
Saturday 13 May, 2023
15 George Furbank
14 James Ramm
13 Fraser Dingwall
12 Rory Hutchinson
11 Tommy Freeman
10 Fin Smith
9 Alex Mitchell
1 Alex Waller
2 Tom Cruse
3 Trevor Davison
4 David Ribbans
5 Alex Moon
6 Courtney Lawes – 165th Premiership start, new Club record
7 Lewis Ludlam (c)
8 Juarno Augustus
16 Robbie Smith
17 Ethan Waller
18 Paul Hill
19 Lukhan Salakaia-Loto
20 Angus Scott-Young
21 Sam Graham
22 Tom James
23 Tom Collins
Not considered for selection:
Geordie Irvine, Emmanuel Iyogun, Joel Matavesi, Sam Matavesi, Matt Proctor, and Ollie Sleightholme.
SARACENS TEAM TO FACE SAINTS:
15 Alex Goode, 14 Max Malins, 13 Alex Lozowski, 12 Nick Tompkins, 11 Sean Maitland, 10 Owen Farrell (c), 9 Ivan Van Zyl; 1 Mako Vunipola, 2 Jamie George, 3 Marco Riccioni, 4 Maro Itoje, 5 Hugh Tizard, 6 Nick Isiekwe, 7 Ben Earl, 8 Jackson Wray
Replacements: 16 Theo Dan, 17 Eroni Mawi, 18 Christian Judge, 19 Callum Hunter-Hill, 20 Toby Knight, 21 Ruben de Haas, 22 Duncan Taylor, 23 Elliot Daly
Referee: Karl Dickson
Assistant referees: Ian Tempest and Sara Cox
No.4: Gareth Holsgrove
TMO: Stuart Terheege