Preview: London Irish v Northampton Saints

Date published: December 24 2015

London Irish will be bolstered for their Boxing Day Premiership fixture against Northampton Saints with the return of lock Matt Symons to captain the side.

Tom Court and Ben Franks start in the front row alongside David Paice, who returns after missing the last two Challenge Cup fixtures. Nic Rouse partners Matt Symons in the second row with Luke Narraway, Blair Cowan and Ofisa Treviranus in the back row.

Brendan McKibbin and Chris Noakes form the half-back pairing with Johnny Williams and Canadian international, Ciaran Hearn in the midfield. Aseli Tikoirotuma, Alex Lewington and Sean Maitland make up the back three.

London Irish head coach Tom Coventry said: "On behalf of the club, I would firstly like to wish all of our supporters a very Merry Christmas. We hope you enjoy the festivities with family and friends. The squad have worked hard this week and responded well to the result in Edinburgh last Friday.

"Northampton are a top side and we know the challenge we face on Saturday but we have prepared well and will go out and put in a passionate performance in front of our families and supporters.”

Meanwhile, for Northampton there are seven changes in all from the team which ran out against Racing 92 last weekend, with Ken Pisi and Kahn Fotuali’i coming into the back line and Ethan Waller, Dylan Hartley, Paul Hill, Michael Paterson and Christian Day making up a new front five in the pack.

With Lee Dickson among the replacements Hartley has been chosen to lead the team out at the Madejski Stadium.

Form: Saints have been relatively off colour this term with three wins from their six Aviva Premiership Rugby matches, leaving them fifth in the table. Saints have won the last six of their fixtures with London Irish – a run that stretches back to October 2012. And they look to have turned a corner this term, rattling off narrow back-to-back wins against Gloucester Rugby and Bath Rugby after an uncharacteristically slow start. 

The teams:

Irish: 15 Sean Maitland, 14 Alex Lewington, 13 Ciaran Hearn, 12 Johnny Williams,  11 Aseli Tikoirotuma, 10 Chris Noakes, 9 Brendan McKibbin, 8 Ofisa Treviranus, 7 Blair Cowan, 6 Luke Narraway, 5 Nic Rouse, 4 Matt Symons (c), 3 Ben Franks, 2 David Paice, 1 Tom Court
Replacements: 16 Jimmy Stevens, 17 Tom Smallbone, 18 Halani Aulika, 19 Joe Trayfoot, 20 Jebb Sinclair, 21 Scott Steele, 22 Shane Geraghty, 23 Fergus Mulchrone

Northampton: 15 Ben Foden, 14 Ken Pisi, 13 George Pisi, 12 Luther Burrell, 11 George North, 10 Stephen Myler, 9 Kahn Fotuali’i, 8 Teimana Harrison, 7 Jamie Gibson, 6 Courtney Lawes, 5 Christian Day, 4 Michael Paterson, 3 Paul Hill, 2 Dylan Hartley (c), 1 Ethan Waller
Replacements: 16 Mikey Haywood, 17 Alex Waller, 18 Gareth Denman, 19 Victor Matfield, 20 Sam Dickinson, 21 Lee Dickson, 22 JJ Harrahan, 23 Tom Collins

Date: Saturday, December 26
Venue: Madejski Stadium
Kick-off: 14:30 GMT
Referee: Ian Tempest
Assistant Referees: Ashley Rowden, Gareth Copsey
TMO: David Sainsbury