Preview: Northampton Saints v Bath

Date published: September 2 2016

France number eight Louis Picamoles will make his first competitive start for Northampton when they face Bath in their Premiership opener at Franklin's Gardens on Saturday.

Fellow new signings Nic Groom and Charlie Clare could also see their first action in black, green and gold after having been named on the replacements’ bench, where they are joined by George North.

Saints captain Tom Wood joins Picamoles in the back row and leads the side from the blindside flank and Jamie Gibson packs down on the other side of the scrum.

The front row comprises props  Kieran Brookes and Alex Waller who pack down alongside England captain and hooker Dylan Harltey while Courtney Lawes and Michael Paterson start in the second row.

In the backline, Ben Foden starts at full-back and forms a back three with Ahsee Tuala and Ken Pisi while Luther Burrell and George Pisi start in midfield and Harry Mallinder and Lee Dickson form the halfback combination.

Meanwhile, two international players make their first competitive appearance for Bath, with Samoa’s Kahn Fotuali’i and Wales’s Taulupe Faletau both named in the starting line-up.

Scrum-half Fotuali’i, formerly of Northampton Saints, partners fly-half George Ford, with Max Clark and Jonathan Joseph lining up in the midfield. Matt Banahan and Semesa Rokoduguni are named on the wings, with Tom Homer at fullback.

Nathan Catt, Ross Batty and Henry Thomas form a powerful front row, with an equally muscular second row made up of Charlie Ewels and Dave Attwood.

Matt Garvey captains the team from the blindside (having done so in Bath’s last outing, the 19-39 pre-season victory against Leinster), with David Denton wearing the number seven jersey and British and Irish Lion Faletau at eight.   

Form: Northampton Saints were victorious in Round 21 and 22 of the Premiership last season but were defeated 12-13 at Worcester in Round One to end a run of eight successive opening weekend victories. The Saints' only defeat in their last six encounters at Franklin’s Gardens came when Leicester were the visitors in Round 20. Bath’s last four games in the Premiership have all been won by the home side on the day, whilst Bath’s only defeat on the opening weekend since 2006 came at Gloucester in 2009. Bath have won just one of their last five away games: 17-12 at Gloucester in Round 18. Bath have not defeated Northampton in the Premiership since a 38-8 victory at the Recreation Ground in February 2011 whilst they have only beaten the Saints once on their own soil in the history of the tournament: 17-13 in April 2000. 

The teams:

Northampton Saints: 15 Ben Foden, 14 Ken Pisi, 13 George Pisi, 12 Luther Burrell, 11 Ahsee Tuala, 10 Harry Mallinder, 9 Lee Dickson, 8 Louis Picamoles, 7 Jamie Gibson, 6 Tom Wood (c), 5 Michael Paterson, 4 Courtney Lawes, 3 Kieran Brookes, 2 Dylan Hartley, 1 Alex Waller 
Replacements: 16 Charlie Clare, 17 Campese Ma’afu, 18 Paul Hill, 19 Sam Dickinson, 20 Teimana Harrison, 21 Nic Groom, 22 Stephen Myler, 23 George North

Bath: 15 Tom Homer, 14 Semesa Rokoduguni, 13 Jonathan Joseph, 12 Max Clark, 11 Matt Banahan, 10 George Ford, 9 Kahn Fotuali’i, 8 Taulupe Faletau, 7 David Denton, 6 Matt Garvey (c), 5 Dave Attwood, 4 Charlie Ewels, 3 Henry Thomas, 2 Ross Batty, 1 Nathan Catt 
Replacements: 16 Tom Dunn, 17 Nick Auterac, 18 Kane Palma-Newport, 19 David Sisi, 20 Tom Ellis, 21 Chris Cook, 22 Rhys Priestland, 23 Jeff Williams

Date: Saturday, September 3
Venue: Franklin's Gardens
Kick-off: 15:30 BST (14:30 GMT)
Referee: JP Doyle
Assistant Referees: Tim Wigglesworth, Ross Campbell
TMO: David Sainsbury