Preview: London Welsh v Northampton

Date published: December 3 2014

London Welsh make four changes, including one positional, for Sunday’s Premiership fixture with Northampton Saints at the Kassam Stadium.

London Welsh make four changes, including one positional, for Sunday’s Premiership fixture with Northampton Saints at the Kassam Stadium.

In the backs, Paul Rowley comes in at scrum-half with Rob Lewis named on the bench.

In the forwards, Dean Schofield partners James Down in the second row while Lachlan McCaffrey moves from openside flanker to number eight in place of the injured Opeti Fonua.

The number seven jersey is taken by the returning Carl Kirwan, who is set to make his first appearance of the season.

London Welsh head coach Justin Burnell said: “We saw glimpses of improvement last week against Leicester Tigers, which is what we spoke about after the Wasps game, and on Sunday we’re looking to see a further improvement. Continuous improvement is what we’re after.

“When we sat down and analysed Northampton you can definitely see why they are the current champions and top of the Aviva Premiership. They’re a fantastic team across the board and it’s a massive task ahead of us, but we’re looking forward to it.

“We’ve got to look for opportunities in the game and that’s what we’ve been focusing on this week.”

The last time Saints visited the Kassam Stadium, in April 2013, two tries from now London Welsh captain Tom May in a 31-14 win for Northampton confirmed the Exiles’ relegation to the Championship.

Meanwhile, the Saints have named an unchanged starting XV.

A clean bill of health means the coaches can call on the same side that produced an outstanding first half in last weekend’s rain-soaked win over Saracens, one which saw the Saints maintain their place at the top of the table.

There are, however, alterations to the matchday 23 with a trio of returnees among the replacements.

Kahn Fotuali’i and Ken Pisi are back following their autumn series with Samoa, while Sam Dickinson is in line for his first appearance since the 2014 Premiership Final having rehabbed from a neck injury

Form: London Welsh have lost all twelve matches they have played in all tournaments this season, scoring 13 tries and conceding 69. The Exiles have won only four previous Aviva Premiership Rugby matches at Kassam Stadium, all in the 2012/13 season against Exeter, Bath, London Irish and Worcester. Northampton Saints have lost just one of their last six Aviva Premiership Rugby encounters, at home to Exeter in Round Seven, but remain the best team on current form having picked up 24 league points in that sequence of games. The Saints have won their last three away matches in the competition since their 16-20 reversal at Wasps in Round Two. Northampton have won their last six competitive fixtures with London Welsh since the Exiles’ 16-14 victory at Franklin’s Gardens in the old League Division Two in January 1988. Saints are clear favourites with BetBright.

The teams:

London Welsh: 15 Seb Jewell, 14 Seb Stegmann, 13 Nic Reynolds, 12 Tom May (c), 11 Nick Scott, 10 Gordon Ross, 9 Paul Rowley, 8 Lachlan McCaffrey, 7 Carl Kirwan, 6 Pete Browne, 5 James Down, 4 Dean Schofield, 3 Taione Vea, 2 Nathan Vella, 1 Ricky Reeves
Replacements: 16 Nathan Morris, 17 Nathan Trevett, 18 Ben Cooper, 19 Matt Corker, 20 Ben Pienaar, 21 Rob Lewis, 22 Will Robinson, 23 Alan Awcock

Northampton: 15 Ben Foden, 14 Jamie Elliott, 13 Tom Stephenson, 12 Luther Burrell, 11 James Wilson, 10 Stephen Myler, 9 Lee Dickson, 8 Samu Manoa, 7 Phil Dowson (c), 6 Calum Clark, 5 Christian Day, 4 James Craig, 3 Salesi Ma’afu, 2 Mike Haywood, 1 Alex Waller
Replacements: 16 Ross McMillan, 17 Ethan Waller, 18 Gareth Denman, 19 Sam Dickinson, 20 Ben Nutley, 21 Kahn Fotuali’i, 22 Dom Waldouck, 23 Ken Pisi

Date: Sunday, November 30
Kick-off: 14:30 GMT
Venue: Kassam Stadium
Referee: Tim Wigglesworth
Assistant Referees: Peter Huckle, Andy Watson
TMO: Trevor Fisher.