Northampton Saints’ look to get revenge against Racing Metro in their European Champions Cup tie on Friday.
Reported next England Captain Dylan Hartley will not return for Saints’ as he continues to recover from a concussion
Racing name an unchanged XV from last weekend’s comfortable triumph
England captaincy contender Dylan Hartley will not return for Northampton Saints’ as they prepare for a tough European Champions Cup tie against Racing Metro on Friday.
The hooker, who captained Northampton to the Premiership title in 2014, is still suffering symptoms from a concussion sustained against Saracens last month.
Samoa international centre George Pisi though does return as one of four changes, coming back in at outside-centre after being rested for Saints trip to France.
The other changes see regular fly-half Stephen Myler returns to the starting side with Ashle Tuala and Jamie Gibson coming into the run-on team to complete the hosts changes
Following these changes Saints director of rugby, Jim Mallinder insisted: “We can still qualify,”
“We’ve won our first two games, we got a hammering away in France but we think we can win five out of six, so we need to make sure we win on Friday.
“Dylan’s making good improvements, he’s doing quite a lot of training now, but he’s not 100%, and until he feels completely back to normal we won’t rush him back.
“Most of the time he’s fine. He can run, he can lift weights but then sometimes after a heavy training session he just doesn’t feel 100% right.
“It’s not like he’s got a splitting migraine or is being violently sick or anything like that. I guess it’s hard for him to describe, so it’s difficult for me to say what it is.”
Meanwhile, Dan Carter starts again for Racing as they name an unchanged starting XV from last weekend convincing 33-3 victory against Saints in France.
It was a five-try affair for the French side as they dismantled last year’s Premiership semi-finalists, and they will be looking to build on that performance in the reverse fixture on Friday evening as they look to secure their place in the knockout rounds.
The only change in Racing’s matchday squad is amongst the replacements where Marc Andreu comes in for Alexandre Dumoulin as backline cover.
Racing 92 remain undefeated in three matches against Northampton Saints after a 33-3 victory in their round 3encounter
The French side have won seven and drawn one of their last nine matches in the Champions Cup, losing only once (by one point to Saracens in the opening round of this season).
Racing are undefeated in their last four matches away from home in the Champions Cup (W3, D1)
Northampton have lost their last four Champions Cup games against French opposition, these defeats coming by an average scoreline of 31-7
BETTING ODDS (via SKY BET)
Northampton 4/5, Draw 25/1, Racing Metro 11/10
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Northampton: George Pisi
Samoa international George Pisi was one of his countries shining lights during the Rugby World Cup and has continued to perform well since returning to domestic duty with Saints although missed out last week through injury. The return of the centre to the starting XV on Friday will be a major boost to Jim Mallinder’s side.
Racing 92: Juan Imhoff
The Argentina wing-wizard showed exactly what he can do with a superb try against Saints in the reverse fixture last weekend. His pace, intelligent footwork and raw power make shim one o the best out-and-out try scorers in world rugby today. The 27-year-olds Test record speaks for itself, touching down 22 tries in 25 starts for the Pumas.
Northampton: 15 Ben Foden, 14 Ah See Tuala, 13 George Pisi, 12 Luther Burrell, 11 George North 10 Stephen Myler, 9 Lee Dickson, 8 Sam Dickinson, 7 Teimana Harrison, 6 Jamie Gibson, 5 Victor Matfield, 4 Courtney Lawes, 3 Kieran Brookes, 2 Mikey Haywood, 1 Alex Waller.
Replacements: 16 Matti Williams, 17 Ethan Waller, 18 Paul Hill, 19 Christian Day, 20 Michael Paterson, 21 Kahn Fotuali’i, 22 JJ Hanrahan, 23 Jamie Elliott.
Racing 92: 15 Brice Dulin, 14 Joe Rokocoko, 13 Casey Laulala, 12 Henry Chavancy, 11 Juan Imhoff; 10 Dan Carter, 9 Mike Phillips, 8 Chris Masoe, 7 Yannick Nyanga, 6 Wenceslas Lauret, 5 Francois van der Merwe, 4 Luke Charteris, 3 Ben Tameifuna, 2 Dimitri Szarzewski, 1 Eddy Ben Arous.
Replacements: 16 Camille Chat, 17 Julien Brugnaut, 18 Cedate Gomes Sa, 19 Manuel Carizza, 20 Antonie Claassen, 21 Maxime Machenaud, 22 Johan Goosen, 23 Marc Andreu.
Date: Friday, December 18
Venue: Franklin’s Gardens
Kick-off: 19:45 GMT
Referee: Nigel Owens (Wales)
Assistant Referees: Gwyn Morris (Wales), Wayne Davies (Wales)
TMO: Derek Bevan (Wales)