London Irish v Northampton preview: Team news, kick-off time, line-ups and stats for the Aviva Premiership clash
London Irish welcome Northampton to the Madejski Stadium on Saturday: 14:30 kick-off
The Exiles are bolstered by the return of Matt Symons at lock
Dylan Hartley returns to Saints starting XV and skippers the side
London Irish host Northampton at the Madejski Stadium on Boxing day as they continue to chase their first Aviva Premiership win of the season.
The Exiles are cemented to the bottom of the table with zero points from six games, however, have had some reason to cheer this term, with victories recorded in Europe against Agen and Edinburgh.
The hosts are also bolstered with the return of lock Matt Symons to captain the side.
Tom Court and Ben Franks start in the front row alongside David Paice, who returns after missing the last two European Challenge Cup fixtures.
Nic Rouse partners Matt Symons in the second row with Luke Narraway, Blair Cowan and Ofisa Treviranus in the back row.
Brendan McKibbin and Chris Noakes form the half-back pairing with Johnny Williams and Canadian international, Ciaran Hearn in the midfield.
Aseli Tikoirotuma, Alex Lewington and Sean Maitland make up the back three.
Meanwhile, Saints have also been relatively off colour this term with three wins from their six Aviva Premiership Rugby matches, leaving them fifth in the table.
There are seven changes in all from the team that ran out against Racing-92 last weekend, with Ken Pisi and Kahn Fotuali’i coming into the back line and Ethan Waller, Dylan Hartley, Paul Hill, Michael Paterson and Christian Day making up a new front five in the pack.
With Lee Dickson among the replacements hooker Hartley, who is the odds-on favourite to be the next England Captain, has been chosen to lead the team out at the Madejski Stadium.
Northampton has just three wins from their six Aviva Premiership Rugby matches, leaving them fifth in the table.
London Irish are on zero points after six games so far this season
Saints have won the last six of their fixtures with London Irish – a run that stretches back to October 2012.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
London Irish: Alex Lewington
The 24-year-old’s glowing performances last season caught the attention of many admirers, but consistency will be key if he is to turn up for today’s game.
Northampton: Ben Foden
The fullback has at time been exceptional for Saints so far this season as he attempts kickstart both his domestic and international career. It’s been fabulous to see him playing again this season after recovering from a serious injury that ended his Rugby World Cup hopes last term.
London Irish: 15 Sean Maitland, 14 Alex Lewington, 13 Ciaran Hearn, 12 Johnny Williams, 11 Aseli Tikoirotuma, 10 Chris Noakes, 9 Brendan McKibbin, 8 Ofisa Treviranus, 7 Blair Cowan, 6 Luke Narraway, 5 Nic Rouse, 4 Matt Symons (c), 3 Ben Franks, 2 David Paice, 1 Tom Court
Replacements: 16 Jimmy Stevens, 17 Tom Smallbone, 18 Halani Aulika, 19 Joe Trayfoot, 20 Jebb Sinclair, 21 Scott Steele, 22 Shane Geraghty, 23 Fergus Mulchrone
Northampton: 15 Ben Foden, 14 Ken Pisi, 13 George Pisi, 12 Luther Burrell, 11 George North, 10 Stephen Myler, 9 Kahn Fotuali’i, 8 Teimana Harrison, 7 Jamie Gibson, 6 Courtney Lawes, 5 Christian Day, 4 Michael Paterson, 3 Paul Hill, 2 Dylan Hartley (c), 1 Ethan Waller
Replacements: 16 Mikey Haywood, 17 Alex Waller, 18 Gareth Denman, 19 Victor Matfield, 20 Sam Dickinson, 21 Lee Dickson, 22 JJ Harrahan, 23 Tom Collins
Date: Saturday, December 26
Venue: Madejski Stadium
Kick-off: 14:30 GMT
Referee: Ian Tempest
Assistant Referees: Ashley Rowden, Gareth Copsey
TMO: David Sainsbury