Preview: Gloucester v Northampton

Date published: December 30 2016

Faced with a short turnaround following Tuesday’s Premiership fixture away at Harlequins, Gloucester make eight changes to their starting line-up for Sunday’s home game against Northampton Saints.

Three of the changes are in the backs. David Halaifonua comes in for Charlie Sharples on the right wing, with the latter ruled out with a knee injury.

Andrew Symons will make his full debut in the midfield in place of Matt Scott and Willi Heinz takes over from Greig Laidlaw as scrum-half and captain.

In the pack, Salesi Ma’afu returns in the front row against his former club with Josh Hohneck moving from tighthead to loosehead. Meanwhile, Jeremy Thrush gets his first Premiership start of the season in the second row.

Finally, it’s an all new back row as Lewis Ludlow, Matt Kvesic and Ben Morgan come in for Ross Moriarty, Jacob Rowan and Gareth Evans respectively.

Meanwhile, the Kingsholm clash will mark the latest significant milestone for Northampton's Stephen Myler, who becomes just the 16th player to hit the 300-appearance mark for the club.

Elsewhere the Saints coaches have made two changes to the squad that beat Sale in Round 11.

George North comes onto the left wing in place of Juan Pablo Estelles, who drops to the bench, with Harry Mallinder returning to the matchday 23 for the first time since October’s home Premiership game against Gloucester.

Form: Gloucester’s last five matches in Premiership Rugby have all been won by the home side on the day, whilst Gloucester have not been defeated at Kingsholm in any tournament since Bath were the visitors in Premiership Rugby on 1st October. Northampton Saints 24-5 win at home to Sale on 23rd December ended a four game losing run in all competitions; although the Saints have won just only once away from home in Premiership since September, and that by a single point at Worcester in round 8. Northampton are unbeaten in their last eight fixtures with Gloucester in all competitions including two this season at Franklin’s Gardens, in round Seven of Premiership Rugby and round 2 of the Anglo-Welsh Cup. The Saints have been defeated just once in their last four trips to Kingsholm in Premiership Rugby.

The teams:

Gloucester: 15 James Hook, 14 David Halaifonua, 13 Andrew Symons, 12 Billy Twelvetrees, 11 Jonny May, 10 Billy Burns, 9 Willi Heinz (c), 8 Ben Morgan, 7 Matt Kvesic, 6 Lewis Ludlow, 5 Jeremy Thrush, 4 Tom Savage, 3 Salesi Ma’afu, 2 Richard Hibbard, 1 Josh Hohneck
Replacements: 16 Motu Matu’u, 17 Paddy McAllister, 18 John Afoa, 19 Mariano Galarza, 20 Ross Moriarty, 21 Greig Laidlaw, 22 Matt Scott, 23 Henry Purdy

Northampton: 15 Ben Foden, 14 Ken Pisi, 13 Luther Burrell, 12 JJ Hanrahan, 11 George North, 10 Stephen Myler, 9 Nic Groom, 8 Louis Picamoles, 7 Teimana Harrison, 6 Tom Wood (c), 5 Christian Day, 4 Courtney Lawes, 3 Kieran Brookes, 2 Mikey Haywood, 1 Alex Waller
Replacements: 16 Charlie Clare, 17 Ethan Waller, 18 Paul Hill, 19 Api Ratuniyarawa, 20 Jamie Gibson, 21 Tom Kessell, 22 Harry Mallinder, 23 Juan Pablo Estelles

Date: Sunday, January 1
Venue: Kingsholm Stadium
Time: 15:00 Local
Referee: Matt Carley
Assistant Referees: Dean Richards, Nigel Carrick
TMO: Graham Hughes