Northampton and Gloucester return to Aviva Premiership action on Friday night after two weeks of European matches on Friday evening: 19:45 kick-off
Victor Matfield is poised to make his Saints debut on Friday after being named on the bench
England wing Jonny May returns for the Cherry and Whites after being rested for their two Challenge Cup clashes
Springbok legend Victor Matfield is set to make his bow for Northampton Saints as he is named among their replacements for their home clash against Gloucester in Friday evenings Aviva Premiership action.
Matfield, who skippered the Barbarians against Argentina at Twickenham last weekend, has been named on the bench as Jim Mallinder chooses to make just one change to the side that played so well in last weekend’s Champions Cup win against last year’s Guinness Pro12 champions Glasgow Warriors.
The only alteration sees Kahn Fotuali’i come in for Lee Dickson at scrum-half, with England’s Tom Wood, who is in contention for national sides captaincy, leading Saints out. Ken Pisi, the brother of George, has also returned to the matchday 23.
Meanwhile, Gloucester recalls England wing Jonny May to first team action after leaving the speedster out of their two European clashes while towering Argentina lock Mariano Galarza is named in the matchday squad for the first time this season.
May features in a backs division that has three new faces from the unit that overcome La Rochelle a week ago with Rob Cook coming in at full-back while Willi Heinz rotates with Greig Laidlaw at scrum-half.
Northampton’s only win in their last six Aviva Premiership games was against Newcastle Falcons back in October
The Saints have lost their last two Premiership Rugby encounters at Franklin’s Gardens (both to Saracens) but have not lost three in a row at the venue in the tournament since 2011.
Gloucester’s only defeat in their last four matches in all tournaments was to Wasps at Coventry in Round 4 of Aviva Premiership Rugby.
The Cherry and Whites have won two of their last three away games in all tournaments
Gloucester’s Matt Kvesic has won eight turnovers in the Aviva Premiership this season, which is the most of any player
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Northampton: Luther Burrell
Burrell has had something of a meteoric rise after joining the Saints in 2012. He has repeatedly proved to be a powerful force in the centres, demonstrating some of the agility and speed he picked up during his time playing rugby league as a youngster. He has been in the headlines this week and, under the microscope, he will want to put in another fine display for Saints here.
Gloucester: Billy Twelvetrees
Twelvetrees has probably been the standout player for the Cherry and Whites so far this season. He has controlled games with his composed presence and has the uncanny ability to unleash Gloucester’s impressive back three almost on demand. If required, his goal kicking is fantastic while he also tackles firmly. You can expect an all round outstanding display from the Gloucester man.
Sky Bet Odds (subject to change):
Northampton 1/4 Draw 33/11 Gloucester 3/1
Northampton: 15 Ben Foden, 14 Ahsee Tuala, 13 George Pisi, 12 Luther Burrell, 11 George North, 10 Stephen Myler, 9 Kahn Fotuali’I; 1 Alex Waller, 2 Mikey Haywood, 3 Kieran Brookes, 4 Michael Paterson, 5 Christian Day, 6 Jamie Gibson, 7 Tom Wood (c), 8 Sam Dickinson.
Replacements: 16 Matti Williams, 17 Ethan Waller, 18 Paul Hill, 19 Victor Matfield, 20 Teimana Harrison, 21 Lee Dickson, 22 JJ Hanrahan, 23 Ken Pisi.
Gloucester: 15 Rob Cook, 14 Charlie Sharples, 13 Bill Meakes, 12 James Hook, 11 Jonny May, 10 Billy Twelvetrees (c), 9 Willi Heinz; 1 Paddy McAllister, 2 Richard Hibbard, 3 John Afoa, 4 Tom Savage, 5 Jeremy Thrush, 6 Ross Moriarty, 7 Matt Kvesic, 8 Ben Morgan.
Replacements: 17 Darren Dawidiuk, 17 Yann Thomas, 18 Paul Doran-Jones, 19 Mariano Galarza, 20 Sione Kalamafoni, 21 Greig Laidlaw, 22 Henry Purdy, 23 Jacob Rowan.
Date: Friday, November 27
Venue: Franklin’s Gardens
Kick-off: 19:45 GMT
Referee: Greg Garner
Assistant referees: Paul Dix and Ashley Rowden
TMO: David Sainsbury