Northampton Saints have made five changes to their starting line-up for this weekend’s final Pool 2 clash in the European Champions Cup.
Two-time defending champions Saracens lie in wait at Allianz Park, but Saints come into the fixture off the back of two straight victories – beating Gloucester Rugby in the Aviva Premiership before downing ASM Clermont Auvergne for the first time in the Club’s history.
And they have a point to prove again this weekend despite being unable to progress to the knockout stages, having been beaten twice already this season by their London rivals.
Technical coaching consultant Alan Gaffney and interim head coach Alan Dickens have rung the changes following last weekend’s triumph, with several players rested.
All three Saints called up for England duty on Thursday retain their place in the side, with the uncapped Harry Mallinder keeping the No.10 jersey again after impressing at fly-half in recent weeks.
😇 Great to see our lads included in Eddie Jones’ squad for the @SixNationsRugby opener
— Northampton Saints (@SaintsRugby) January 18, 2018
Nafi Tuitavake – who scored with his first touch against Clermont – replaces Ahsee Tuala in the starting XV, with last weekend’s man-of-the-match Ben Foden switching to full-back as a result.
The only other change to the back-line sees scrum-half Cobus Reinach given the opportunity to impress on his first start since early December, but the front row is unchanged.
Christian Day is given a new second-row partner in Michael Paterson, while Jamie Gibson and Mitch Eadie also come in to join Courtney Lawes at the base of the scrum.
And Francois van Wyk is the only player retained among the replacements from last weekend with seven fresh players set to make an impact from the bench – including Stephen Myler and George North who have recovered from rib and knee injuries respectively.
“We built on that Gloucester performance against Clermont, and we’re looking to continue that momentum,” said Dickens.
“We want to go down there, put a performance in and finish our European campaign strongly. There was a great buzz around the whole stadium last week and we’ve been pretty clinical inside the 22 for the last two games.
“We can’t progress but we said last week that there are no dead rubbers for us, and we’re fortunate that we’ve got a group of competitive players who want to win every week.”
15 Ben Foden
14 Ken Pisi
13 Rob Horne
12 Tom Stephenson
11 Nafi Tuitavake
10 Harry Mallinder
9 Cobus Reinach
1 Campese Ma’afu
2 Dylan Hartley (capt)
3 Kieran Brookes
4 Michael Paterson
5 Christian Day
6 Courtney Lawes
7 Jamie Gibson
8 Mitch Eadie
16 Reece Marshall
17 Francois van Wyk
18 Paul Hill
19 David Ribbans
20 Lewis Ludlam
21 Alex Mitchell
22 Stephen Myler
23 George North
Alex Waller (arm), Jamie Elliott (hamstring), Piers Francis (head), and Luther Burrell (calf) are unavailable for selection.
Tickets are now available for Saints’ Anglo-Welsh Cup clash with Harlequins from the ticket office at Franklin’s Gardens, online by visiting bit.ly/SAI-QUI-AWC or by calling the Saints Ticket Office on 01604 581000.