Taqele Naiyaravoro, James Grayson and Rory Hutchinson all return to Northampton Saints’ starting XV on Friday, with director of rugby Chris Boyd making eight changes in total to the side that triumphed in Lyon last weekend.
London Irish are the visitors at Franklin’s Gardens tomorrow evening (kick-off 7.45pm), with the men in Black, Green and Gold desperate for a victory that would both extend their unbeaten league run on home soil, and return them to the top of the Gallagher Premiership pile.
Northampton have won their last four matches in all competitions and have lost only one of their last nine league encounters with London Irish, with the Exiles winning just once at the Gardens in 15 years.
Boyd has made four changes to the pack and four to his backline with six Saints called into Eddie Jones’ England squad this week.
Teimana Harrison will lead out the side under the Friday night lights, but starts at flanker, with Mitch Eadie coming in at No.8 and Tom Wood rounding off the back row.
Alex Coles and Api Ratuniyarawa both come into the engine room for the hosts, while loosehead prop Ben Franks is the final change to the pack as hooker Mikey Haywood and tighthead Owen Franks retain their places after impressing in France.
Fly-half Grayson is selected to wear the No.10 jersey for Saints for the 11th time this season – matching his best-ever tally of starts in a campaign – with the in-form Cobus Reinach playing at scrum-half, and both Piers Francis and Hutchinson returning to Northampton’s midfield.
England U20s flyer Ollie Sleightholme keeps his place meanwhile on the wing, with Ahsee Tuala switching to fullback to pave the way for Naiyaravoro to complete the hosts’ starting line-up.
Saints’ bench sees a return to action for Tom Collins following suspension, and another England U20 international in JJ Tonks gets a Premiership opportunity for the first time since October.
Please be aware though that due to a fixture clash with Northampton Town FC tomorrow evening, there is likely to be some congestion on the roads around Franklin’s Gardens. Please be patient; our stewards will be working hard to ensure supporters get out of the car parks as quickly as possible.
NORTHAMPTON SAINTS vs LONDON IRISH
Gallagher Premiership Rugby, Round 9
Friday 24 January 2020
15 Ahsee Tuala
14 Ollie Sleightholme
13 Rory Hutchinson
12 Piers Francis
11 Taqele Naiyaravoro
10 James Grayson
9 Cobus Reinach
1 Ben Franks
2 Mike Haywood
3 Owen Franks
4 Alex Coles
5 Api Ratuniyarawa
6 Tom Wood
7 Teimana Harrison (c)
8 Mitch Eadie
Referee: Tom Foley
Assistant Referees: Anthony Woodthorpe & Andrew Jackson
TMO: Rowan Kitt