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Wood and Hill bring up Saints milestones in Dublin

Tom Wood will captain Northampton Saints on his 200th appearance for the Club on Saturday, as the men in Black, Green and Gold attempt to reverse last weekend’s Heineken Champions Cup defeat to Leinster Rugby.

Director of rugby Chris Boyd has made eight changes to the side that were defeated by the Pro14 champions last time out, with Northampton needing a victory to keep their hopes of topping Pool One alive.

Flanker Wood will lead out Saints at the Aviva Stadium and is joined in the back row by Jamie Gibson and Lewis Ludlam, with the latter wearing the number eight jersey for the first time since his Club debut.

Meanwhile there are four further changes to the tight five as Francois van Wyk, Michael van Vuuren and Hill all come into a new-look front row – with Hill bringing up a century of Club appearances in the process – and Alex Coles slots into the engine room alongside Fiji international Api Ratuniyarawa.

Dan Biggar remains to marshal the backline but is joined by 20-year-old scrum-half Connor Tupai, who makes his first Heineken Champions Cup start.

Andrew Symons returns to Saints’ midfield to partner Matt Proctor, and there is one further change in the back three as wing Ollie Sleightholme joins Taqele Naiyaravoro and Ahsee Tuala.

Meanwhile hooker Sam Matavesi is poised to make his Northampton debut off the bench if he is introduced to the action, with club captain Alex Waller, James Grayson, and Fraser Dingwall all also named amongst the replacements.

LEINSTER RUGBY vs NORTHAMPTON SAINTS
Heineken Champions Cup, Round Four
Saturday 14 December 2019
Aviva Stadium, Dublin
Kick-off: 5.15pm

15 Ahsee Tuala
14 Ollie Sleightholme
13 Matt Proctor
12 Andrew Symons
11 Taqele Naiyaravoro
10 Dan Biggar
9 Connor Tupai

1 Francois van Wyk
2 Michael van Vuuren
3 Paul Hill
4 Api Ratuniyarawa
5 Alex Coles
6 Tom Wood (c)
7 Jamie Gibson
8 Lewis Ludlam

Replacements:
16 Sam Matavesi
17 Alex Waller
18 Ehren Painter
19 Lewis Bean
20 JJ Tonks
21 James Mitchell
22 James Grayson
23 Fraser Dingwall

Referee: Dan Jones (Wales)
Assistant referees: Adam Jones & Dewi Phillips (both Wales)
TMO: Sean Brickell (Wales)

Not available for selection:
Alex Mitchell (knee), Reece Marshall (hamstring), Reuben Bird-Tulloch (hand), Henry Taylor (thumb), Ben Franks (elbow), David Ribbans (back), James Fish (head), Owen Franks (hand), Courtney Lawes (hamstring), Alex Moon (head) and Cobus Reinach (knee).

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