Tom Stephenson, Kieran Brookes and Christian Day have all come into Northampton Saints’ starting line-up to take on Clermont Auvergne in the European Champions Cup.
Technical coaching consultant Alan Gaffney and interim head coach Alan Dickens have made three changes to the side that began last week’s triumph over Gloucester, as the Saints take on the Top 14 Champions at Franklin’s Gardens, kick-off 5.30pm.
Northampton opened up 2018 in style against the Cherry & Whites, scoring a last-minute penalty try to win 22-19 and end a run of frustrating results in the Aviva Premiership – and will now smell blood with nothing to lose in the competition against Clermont.
The only change to the back-line is caused by the ankle injury that saw Luther Burrell hobble off against Gloucester.
Stephenson comes in to replace him in the midfield after a tenacious showing off the bench last weekend, and the inside centre will celebrate his 50th appearance in the Black, Green and Gold.
Nic Groom and Harry Mallinder will continue to build their half-back partnership, with Ahsee Tuala staying at full-back and Ken Pisi – who scored on his return to the side against Gloucester – and Ben Foden remaining on the wings.
Brookes also continues his comeback from a hand injury with his first start since November, joining skipper Dylan Hartley and Campese Ma’afu in the front row.
“The players fully understand that we didn’t perform particularly well last week, but we got the result we needed,” said Gaffney.
“We fought hard and showed a lot of commitment in what we did which was pleasing, but we understand we still made a lot of mistakes which we’ve got to rectify over time.
“Our game management has to be better at times, but we’ve addressed that and done a lot of work to understand where we can start transferring pressure away from us.
“The next two weeks still mean a lot to us and we’ve got to perform. There’s an enormous amount of improvement still left in us, and we’ve got to go in and take another step forwards.”
Tickets are still available for Saints' European Champions Cup clash with ASM Clermont Auvergne from the ticket office at Franklin’s Gardens, online by visiting bit.ly/SAI-CLE-EPCR or by calling the Saints Ticket Office on 01604 581000. Prices start at £32 for adults and £14 for juniors.
SAINTS V CLERMONT TEAM NEWS
European Champions Cup, Round 5
Saturday 13 January, 2018
15 Ahsee Tuala
15 Isaiah Toeava
1 Etienne Falgoux
Tom Collins (foot), Alex Waller (arm), Jamie Elliott (hamstring), Rory Hutchinson (back), George North (knee), Piers Francis (concussion), Stephen Myler (ribs), and Luther Burrell (calf) are unavailable for selection.