Director of rugby Chris Boyd has rung the changes within his Northampton Saints ranks for this weekend’s clash against Bristol Bears, with the Club’s youngsters thrust into the limelight.
The men in Black, Green and Gold will begin their Premiership Rugby Cup campaign on Saturday (kick-off 2pm), and 14 fresh players come into the matchday 23 following the side’s Challenge Cup win over Dragons in Newport last Friday evening.
“We’ve mixed the youngsters in with some older guys to play around – it’s really exciting to see how they might go.”Chris Boyd, director of rugby
Tom Wood will lead out a Saints squad packed with Academy talent, with wingers Ollie Sleightholme and Matt Worley making their debut first-team appearances for Northampton from the start, as well as Ampthill tighthead Karl Garside – with the trio becoming Saints #1997, #1998 and #1999 in the process.
But prop Will Davis, scrum-half Charlie Davies, centre Fraser Strachan and Coventry prop Jack Higgins could all also debut from the bench, meaning the 2000th player in Saints history is likely to run out onto the Franklin’s Gardens turf during the match.
George Furbank lines up at fullback with Luther Burrell and Fraser Dingwall linking up in the midfield, while James Grayson and Alex Mitchell are given another opportunity to develop their blossoming half-back partnership.
Up front Francois Van Wyk – who came off the bench last weekend – is promoted into the starting front row, while hooker Reece Marshall starts for the first time since April.
Dom Barrow continues his return to action alongside Alex Moon in Saints’ engine room, while a well-balanced back row sees skipper Wood and Lewis Ludlam pack down either side of No.8 Mitch Eadie.
“It’s sure to be an interesting competition this year given it’s replaced the Anglo-Welsh, and it will be interesting to see how all the clubs sit within it,” said Boyd.
“For us, it’s opened up an opportunity for guys coming back from injury, guys that haven’t been able to get themselves onto the teamsheet regularly, and younger guys that are yet to make their first-team debuts.
“So the combination of those three things makes this a really worthwhile exercise; the younger guys have shown enough in the Wanderers games that the skeleton is there for them to be ready, and we’ve mixed them in with some older guys to play around – it’s really exciting to see how they might go.”
Tickets to see Saints open their Premiership Rugby Cup campaign against Bristol Bears are still available. Book your place from £28 adults and £12 juniors now by CLICKING HERE.
NORTHAMPTON SAINTS v BRISTOL BEARS
Premiership Rugby Cup, Round 1
Saturday 27 October, 2018
15 George Furbank
14 Ollie Sleightholme
13 Fraser Dingwall
12 Luther Burrell
11 Matt Worley
10 James Grayson
9 Alex Mitchell
1 Francois Van Wyk
2 Reece Marshall
3 Karl Garside*
4 Dom Barrow
5 Alex Moon
6 Tom Wood (c)
7 Lewis Ludlam
8 Mitch Eadie
16 Mike Haywood
17 Will Davis
18 Jack Higgins*
19 James Craig
20 Devante Onojaife
21 Charlie Davies
22 Fraser Strachan
23 Andrew Kellaway
Not available for selection:
Paul Hill (shoulder), Rory Hutchinson (knee), Toby Trinder (foot), Ken Pisi (shoulder), Nafi Tuitavake (neck), Andy Symons (knee), Jamal Ford-Robinson (knee), Tom Emery (ankle), Harry Mallinder (knee) and James Haskell (ankle).