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Smith, Ribbans and Freeman all return for Saints against Sale

Fin Smith, David Ribbans and Tommy Freeman all return from international duty to start for Northampton Saints in this weekend’s Gallagher Premiership clash against Sale Sharks.

Fourth hosts second in the league on Saturday (kick-off 3pm) at cinch Stadium at Franklin’s Gardens, with the men in Black, Green and Gold looking to stay inside the play-off places with a victory on home soil.

Saints have lost just once in Northampton in this season’s Premiership, and enter this weekend’s match leading the competition in tries, assists, offloads, defenders beaten, clean breaks and gainline success. However, the Sharks have won on three of their last five trips to the Gardens and have proved an extremely tough nut to crack this term, winning ten of their 13 matches so far.

Phil Dowson’s side are boosted by the returns of Smith, Ribbans and Freeman – who all come straight into the side after being released by England earlier this week.

Smith starts at fly-half for Northampton and will partner scrum-half Tom James, with Fraser Dingwall – another welcome returnee in the hosts’ midfield after a two-game suspension – lining up alongside Matt Proctor.

Freeman is named on the wing, while the in-form James Ramm (who has won back-to-back cinch Player of the Month awards for the Club) keeps his place and skipper George Furbank switches to fullback to round off the backline.

Juarno Augustus has made more metres (493) with ball in hand than any other forward in this season’s Premiership so far, and is named at No.8 – with Angus Scott-Young and Aaron Hinkley joining him in Saints’ back row.

Northampton opt for a front row of Alex Waller (making his 250th appearance in the Gallagher Premiership), Paul Hill and hooker Robbie Smith, and Ribbans slots into the engine room alongside Alex Moon. The tight five will be looking to halt a Sale pack which has produced the most maul tries and won the most scrum penalties in the competition this season.

Amongst the replacements for Saints, Tom Collins is set for his first Premiership appearance since early January, while the likes of Rory Hutchinson, Sam Graham and Alex Coles will also be hoping to make an impact off the bench.

NORTHAMPTON SAINTS vs SALE SHARKS
Gallagher Premiership Rugby, Round 17
Saturday 18 February 2023
cinch Stadium at Franklin’s Gardens
Kick-off: 3pm

15 George Furbank (c)
14 Tommy Freeman
13 Matt Proctor
12 Fraser Dingwall
11 James Ramm
10 Fin Smith
9 Tom James

1 Alex Waller – 250th Gallagher Premiership appearance
2 Robbie Smith
3 Paul Hill
4 David Ribbans
5 Alex Moon
6 Angus Scott-Young
7 Aaron Hinkley
8 Juarno Augustus

Replacements:
16 Tom Cruse
17 Ethan Waller
18 Alfie Petch
19 Alex Coles
20 Sam Graham
21 Callum Braley
22 Rory Hutchinson
23 Tom Collins

Not considered for selection:
Callum Burns, Joseph Gaffan, Mike Haywood, Emmanuel Iyogun, Joel Matavesi, Sam Matavesi, Lukhan Salakaia-Loto and Ollie Sleightholme
.

International Duty:
Courtney Lawes, Lewis Ludlam, and Alex Mitchell (all England).

SALE SHARKS TEAM TO FACE SAINTS:
15 Joe Carpenter, 14 Tom O’Flaherty, 13 Sam James, 12 Manu Tuilagi, 11 Arron Reed, 10 Rob Du Preez, 9 Gus Warr; 1 Bevan Rodd, 2 Ewan Ashman, 3 Nick Schonert, 4 Cobus Wiese, 5 Jonny Hill, 6 Jono Ross (c), 7 Tom Curry, 8 Jean-Luc Du Preez
Replacements: 16 Ethan Caine, 17 Si McIntyre, 18 Coenie Oosthuizen, 19 Josh Beaumont, 20 Sam Dugdale, 21 Raffi Quirke, 22 George Ford, 23 Tom Roebuck

Referee: Ian Tempest
Assistant referees: Nick Wood and Jamie Leahy
No.4: Gregg Dawson
TMO: Claire Hodnett

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