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Waller brings up European half-century in Dublin

Club co-captain Alex Waller will make his 50th appearance in the top flight of Europe as he leads Northampton Saints in Dublin this weekend.

The 30-year-old is one of eight fresh faces in Saints’ starting XV as the men in Black, Green and Gold prepare for their second clash of this season’s Heineken Champions Cup, with Pro14 champions Leinster the opponents on Saturday. 

The Dubliners have become a familiar foe for Northampton in recent years – with the sides having locked horns nine times to date – but this year Saints will break new ground as they play at the RDS Arena for the first time ever. 

Tighthead prop Paul Hill shifts from the bench to start this weekend and joins half-centurian Waller and Fijian hooker Sam Matavesi in the front row, while a new-look engine room sees Alex Moon and Api Ratuniyarawa pack down behind them. 

Tom Wood and Shaun Adendorff retain their places in Chris Boyd’s side, with Nick Isiekwe returning to the back row to complete the pack at flanker.

With Dan Biggar unavailable through injury, England international George Furbank moves into the No.10 jersey for only the second time in his Saints career, and he is joined in the half-back berths by Tom James – who makes his European debut from scrum-half. 

Outside them, centres Rory Hutchinson and Fraser Dingwall make up Northampton’s midfield, while Taqele Naiyaravoro and Tom Collins are selected in the back three with 22-year-old Ryan Olowofela he as makes his first Heineken Champions Cup start. 

And two welcome faces return to an experienced Saints bench, as Mikey Haywood prepares to make his first appearance since September and Teimana Harrison returns from a calf injury to take their place amongst Northampton’s replacements.

Heineken Champions Cup, Round 2 (Pool A)
Saturday 19 December 2020
RDS Arena
Kick-off: 1pm

15 Tom Collins
14 Ryan Olowofela
13 Fraser Dingwall
12 Rory Hutchinson
11 Taqele Naiyaravoro
10 George Furbank
9 Tom James

1 Alex Waller (c)
2 Sam Matavesi
3 Paul Hill
4 Alex Moon
5 Api Ratuniyarawa
6 Nick Isiekwe
7 Tom Wood
8 Shaun Adendorff

16 Mikey Haywood
17 Francois van Wyk
18 Owen Franks
19 Alex Coles
20 Teimana Harrison
21 Henry Taylor
22 Piers Francis
23 Matt Proctor

Not available due to injury:
Dan Biggar (knee), Danny Hobbs-Awoyemi (achilles), Lewis Ludlam (shin), Ollie Sleightholme (ankle), and Kayde Sylvester (achilles).

Referee: Pierre Brousset
Assistant Referees: Sean Gallagher and Eoghan Cross
No.4: Nigel Correll
TMO: Olly Hodges

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