Northampton v Scarlets preview: George North faces former club for the first time
Northampton opens their European Champions Cup campaign tonight against Scarlets: 19:45 kick-off
JJ Hanrahan makes his first start for Saints while George North plays his first-ever game against his former club
Scarlets make four changes for the clash
Northampton will be hoping to continue their dominance over Welsh clubs when they face Scarlets in the opening round of the Champions Cup this evening.
Saints come into the game having won their last five meetings against Welsh opposition by a margin of at least ten points.
However, Scarlets have been the winners on the last three occasions the pair have met. The Welsh team will also be hoping to return to winning ways after their six-game winning streak in the Guinness Pro 12 was ended by Leinster last weekend.
For Northampton, wing George North will face his former side for the first time while JJ Hanrahan will make his first start at Franklin’s Gardens, replacing Stephen Myler at fly-half as Jim Mallinder makes four changes to his starting line-up.
Hanrahan partners returning Club captain Lee Dickson at half-back while Ken Pisi named on the wing and Mikey Haywood is selected at hooker in Saints’ two other changes.
Meanwhile, Scarlets head coach Wayne Pivac also makes four changes, with Canada international DTH van der Merwe restored to the starting line-up after being rested for two games.
Steve Shingler has recovered from a toe injury and is named at fly-half while Samoa international Maselino Paulino makes his first start for the region ith Lewis Rawlins moving to the replacements bench.
Centre Gareth Owen will make his 50th appearance for the region.
It will be a tough one to call in the European Cup, but home field advantage will not be enough for Northampton in this one. They have had a poor start in the Aviva Premiership, only winning one game so far this term while the visitors have been dominant. Scarlets by 7
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Northampton: Luther Burrell
The Northampton Saints need to get the ball in the hands of their English centre as much as possible against the Scarlets. He has the ability to break through the line and make progress up the field for his side. The 27-year-old is a big asset for his club and will once again be looking to prove former England boss Stuart Lancaster his decision to leave him out in place for Sam Burgess was the wrong decision.
Scarlets: DTH van der Merwe
The Canadian has made an explosive start to his time in Wales, impressing in whatever position he has been selected in. Today he is selected in the centre, therefore coming up against Saints leading man Burrell. It will be an interesting matchup and whoever gets the better of the opposition early on will probably go on to win the game. He will be looking to add to his three tries in two games for the Scarlets.
Northampton: 15 Ben Foden, 14 Ken Pisi, 13 George Pisi, 12 Luther Burrell, 11 George North, 10 JJ Hanrahan, 9 Lee Dickson (c), 8 Sam Dickinson, 7 Tom Wood, 6 Jamie Gibson, 5 Christian Day, 4 James Craig, 3 Kieran Brookes, 2 Mikey Haywood, 1 Alex Waller.
Replacements: 16 Matti Williams, 17 Ethan Waller, 18 Paul Hill, 19 Michael Paterson, 20 Teimana Harrison, 21 Kahn Fotuali’i, 22 Stephen Myler, 23 Ahsee Tuala.
Scarlets: 15 Aled Thomas, 14 Michael Tagicakibau, 13 Gareth Owen, 12 Hadleigh Parkes, 11 DTH van der Merwe, 10 Steven Shingler, 9 Gareth Davies, 8 John Barclay (c), 7 James Davies, 6 Aaron Shingler, 5 Maselino Paulino, 4 Jake Ball, 3 Peter Edwards, 2 Emyr Phillips, 1 Rob Evans.
Replacements: 16 Kirby Myhill, 17 Phil John, 18 Will Taylor, 19 Tom Price, 20 Lewis Rawlins, 21 Aled Davies, 22 Regan King, 23 Tom Williams.
Date: Saturday, November 14
Venue: Franklin’s Gardens
Kick-off: 19:45 GMT
Referee: Romain Poite (France)
Assistant referees: Tual Trainini (France), Pierre Brousset (France)
Television match official: Eric Gonthier (France)
Timekeeper: Mike Hamlin (England)