Northampton Saints welcome Wasps to Franklin’s Gardens on Friday: 19:45 kick-off
England prop Kieran Brookes returns for saints
Alex Rieder is in line for his competitive Wasps debut while Joe Simpson is ruled out fot 12-weeks
Northampton Saints make seven changes, including the return of powerhouse England prop Kieran Brookes, to the team that earned a bonus-point win at Scarlets to qualify for the last eight of the European Champions Cup.
Despite their European exploits, Northampton though haven’t been up-and-down in Aviva Premiership Rugby so far – collecting four wins from their first nine games but will take confidence from the fact Wasps have beaten Saints only once in their last 13 attempts.
Mikey Haywood, Kieran Brookes, Michael Paterson, Victor Matfield and Teimana Harrison are in the pack, while backs Luther Burrell and Tom Collins return for Jim Mallinders men.
Meanwhile, Wasps are boosted by the return to fitness of Jake Cooper-Woolley and Nathan Hughes, who both made appearances from the bench in last weekend’s win over Leinster, and are named to start this Friday night.
Elsewhere, Rob Miller starts at fullback in the absence of the injured Charles Piutau, James Downey gets the nod at inside centre with Brendan Macken moving to 13, Dan Robson starts at scrum half after impressing from the bench last weekend following the injury to Joe Simpson and James Gaskell and Kearnan Myall link up in the second row.
“We were all really pleased last weekend, not only with the result, but with the performance, which saw us secure a European home quarter final, but now we return to the Aviva Premiership knowing that we have to bring that form into the domestic competition,” said Wasps Director of Rugby Dai Young.
“There are no easy games in this league, but a Friday night at Franklin’s Gardens is right up there with the hardest We haven’t won there as a club since 2005 and we know exactly how tough a challenge it will be.
“Despite being released by their national sides’ mid-week, it was difficult for us to include Matt Mullan, Elliot Daly, Bradley Davies and Lorenzo Cittadini, having already completed all our preparation for Friday night’s game It provides an exciting opportunity for the rest of the squad to step up, after waiting patiently for game time, and I am looking forward to them taking their chance.
“The game will test our depth and our ability to perform at the top level consistently, but it’s a challenge we are all looking forward to If we’re not on the money, Saints have the ability to punish us, and we’ve experienced that before at their hands, so we have to be fully focused on the task in hand and be at our best.”
Northampton’s Victor Matfield and Wasps George Smith played 18 Tests against each other, they meet in the Aviva Premiership for the first time tomorrow
Northampton Saints have lost just one of their last four matches in all competitions: 27-30 at Leicester in Aviva Premiership Rugby on 9 January
The Saints have not lost at Franklin’s Gardens in any tournament since Saracens were the visitors in Premiership Rugby on 7 November
Wasps three game losing run in Aviva Premiership Rugby ended with their 32-22 come from behind victory against Worcester at Ricoh Arena in round 9
Dai Youngs men have won only one of their last 13 encounters with Northampton in all competitions since 2009: 20-16 at Adams Park in Premiership Rugby in September 2014
Wasps have not been victorious at Franklin’s Gardens since a visit in November 2005.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Northampton: Harry Mallinder
Mallinder, son of head coach Jim, has stolen the headlines for the last fortnight. Two weeks ago dotted down the match-winning try in the Champions Cup on his European debut before last Saturday the teenager was on hand to pick up the man of the match award yet again as his score set Saints on their way to a crucial 22-10 win against Scarlets. Mallinder also caught the eye due to his quality range of passing and clever kicking. He will be key to Saints attack.
Wasps: Jimmy Gopperth
Wasps’ experienced fly-half Gopperth put in a display we all knew he was capable of last weekend against Leinster, perfect. The 32-year-old veteran converted his own try before slotting another 12 points from the tee to take his haul up to 19 points, which isn’t a bad total, especially against his former employers. Consistency is the key now for both the number 10 and Wasps in general as they look to improve upon what has been a poor start to their Aviva Premiership campaign, starting this Friday night.
Northampton: 15 Harry Mallinder, 14 Jamie Elliott, 13 George Pisi, 12 Luther Burrell, 11 Tom Collins, 10 Stephen Myler, 9 Tom
Kessell, 8 Sam Dickinson, 7 Teimana Harrison, 6 Tom Wood, 5 Victor Matfield, 4 Michael Paterson, 3 Kieran Brookes, 2
Mike Haywood, 1 Alex Waller.
Replacements: 16 Matt Williams, 17 Ethan Waller, 18 Gareth Denman, 19 James Craig, 20 Jamie Gibson, 21
Lee Dickson, 22 JJ Hanrahan, 23 James Wilson.
Wasps: 15 Rob Miller, 14 Frank Halai, 13 Brendan Macken, 12 James Downey, 11 Josh Bassett, 10 Jimmy Gopperth, 9 Dan Robson, 8 Nathan Hughes, 7 George Smith (c,) 6 Alex Rieder, 5 Kearnan Myall, 4 James Gaskell, 3 Jake Cooper Woolley, 2 Edd Shervington, 1 Simon McIntyre.
Replacements: 16 Ashley Johnson, 17 Tom Bristow, 18 Phil Swainston, 19 James Cannon, 20 Thomas Young, 21 Jamie
Stevenson, 22 Ruaridh Jackson, 23 Sailosi Tagicakibau.
Date: Friday 28 January
Venue: Franklin’s Gardens
Kick-off: 19:45 GMT
Referee: Thomas Foley
Assistant referees: Ashley Rowden & Simon McConnell
TMO: Stuart Terheege