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Saints name side for Premiership curtain-raiser at Sale

Alex Waller returns to skipper Northampton Saints on his first competitive appearance for nine months, as the men in Black, Green and Gold travel to Sale Sharks for their Gallagher Premiership opener.

Chris Boyd’s side head north bidding to topple the Sharks at the AJ Bell Stadium for the first time since early 2018, and mark a fast start to the new league campaign in the process.

Loosehead prop Waller will lead out Northampton following his recovery from an achilles injury, with hooker James Fish and tighthead Paul Hill alongside him in the front row.

Youth and experience combine in the engine room with Alex Moon and Api Ratuniyarawa packing down together, while Nick Isiekwe is selected at flanker with Tom Wood and No.8 Teimana Harrison completing the back in the back row.

No.10 James Grayson and scrum-half Henry Taylor will hope to pull the strings from the half-back berths for Northampton, with two international centres selected in the visitors’ midfield in Piers Francis and Matt Proctor.

Meanwhile Tom Collins and Ahsee Tuala will be hoping to get their season try-scoring tallies off to a flying start with the duo starting on the wings for the men in Black, Green and Gold.

Saints welcome George Furbank, David Ribbans, and Alex Mitchell, back from England international duty in time for the clash – but only the fullback makes the starting line-up with Ribbans and Mitchell ready to make an impact for Northampton from amongst the replacements.

There is also a return for fullback Harry Mallinder, who has shaken off a troublesome knee injury over the Premiership’s break, while the likes of Owen Franks, JJ Tonks and Fraser Dingwall are alongside him on the visitors’ bench.

SALE SHARKS vs NORTHAMPTON SAINTS
Gallagher Premiership Rugby, Round 1
Friday 20 November 2020
AJ Bell Stadium
Kick-off: 8pm

15 George Furbank
14 Ahsee Tuala
13 Matt Proctor
12 Piers Francis
11 Tom Collins
10 James Grayson
9 Henry Taylor

1 Alex Waller (c)
2 James Fish
3 Paul Hill
4 Alex Moon
5 Api Ratuniyarawa
6 Nick Isiekwe
7 Tom Wood
8 Teimana Harrison

Replacements:
16 Reece Marshall
17 Nick Auterac
18 Owen Franks
19 David Ribbans
20 JJ Tonks
21 Alex Mitchell
22 Fraser Dingwall
23 Harry Mallinder

Referee: Ian Tempest
Assistant referees: Hamish Smales & Wayne Falla
No.4: Darryl Chapman
TMO: Trevor Fisher

Not available due to injury:
Mikey Haywood (knee), Danny Hobbs-Awoyemi (achilles), Rory Hutchinson (ankle), Courtney Lawes (ankle), Ollie Sleightholme (ankle), and Kayde Sylvester (achilles).