Preview: Northampton Saints v Gloucester

Date published: October 27 2016

Northampton boss Jim Mallinder has made five changes to his starting XV for Friday's clash with Gloucester at Franklin's Gardens.

Mallinder has wielded the axe after the Saints' 41-7 defeat to Castres in the Champions Cup last weekend.

George Pisi and Lee Dickson joins the back-line at outside centre and scrum-half where they replace Rory Hutchinson and Nic Groom respectively.

In the forwards, Mikey Haywood, Calum Clark and Christian Day return to the run-on side, with Day set for his first Premiership action of the season.

Haywood replaces Dylan Harltey at hooker while Clark and Day come in for Teimana Harrison and Michael Paterson on the blindside flank and in the second row.

Meanwhile, Gloucester have also made five changes to their starting line-up.

There is just one new face in the backs as Mark Atkinson reclaims the inside centre berth. Billy Twelvetrees moves across to fly-half to replace Billy Burns.

The rest of the changes are in the pack. Richard Hibbard returns at hooker and Mariano Galarza is back in the boiler room alongside Tom Savage. In the back row, Jacob Rowan and Ben Morgan replace Matt Kvesic and Lewis Ludlow respectively.

Amongst the replacements, Salesi Ma'afu will be coming up against one of his former clubs while Henry Purdy returns to the matchday squad after injury.

Both teams will be looking to move up the table, and the overall head to head record between the two is incredibly close.

Speaking to the local media, Gloucester director of rugby David Humphreys stressed that Gloucester are on an upward curve but is well aware that Saints on their own patch are a tough nut to crack.

"Over the last three weeks, we've improved," he said.

"Our performances have got better and better. And now it's a case of going back into what we know is a huge game for us against a team that has had a similar start to us this season, but a team who we know have got very good players.

"We've only played six games in the league this season and two wins can move you from 10th to 4th. Then it's a very different conversation. None of us like being towards the bottom of the table, but all you can do is, going into next week, make sure you've prepared very well.

"We're coming off the back of a good run of games, our focus has been very much on making sure that some of those good things we've delivered over the last few weeks are even better going into the Northampton match.

"It's a case of us ensuring that, for every game we go into, we've prepared well and given ourselves the best possible chance to win. But, also bearing in mind that we're going to play what is a very good team. It's a huge challenge for us but one that we're in a better place now to meet."

Form: Northampton Saints have won just two of their last six matches in all competitions, but at Franklin’s Gardens have been victorious their last two, against Exeter Chiefs in the Premiership and Montpellier in the European Champions Cup. Gloucester have recorded just a solitary success in the Premiership this season: away at Sale in Round 3, but won both of their fixtures in the European Challenge Cup, against Bayonne and Treviso. Gloucester are unbeaten in their last five away games in all tournaments since tripping up at Leicester in the Premiership in April. Northampton are unbeaten in their last five Premiership encounters with Gloucester since Gloucester’s 26-24 victory at Kingsholm in September 2013. The Cherry and Whites have not won at Franklin’s Gardens since February 2013.

The teams:

Northampton: 15 Ben Foden, 14 James Wilson, 13 George Pisi, 12 Harry Mallinder, 11 George North, 10 Stephen Myler, 9 Lee Dickson, 8 Louis Picamoles, 7 Calum Clark, 6 Tom Wood (c), 5 Christian Day, 4 Courtney Lawes, 3 Kieran Brookes, 2 Mikey Haywood, 1 Alex Waller
Replacements: 16 Dylan Hartley, 17 Ethan Waller, 18 Paul Hill, 19 Michael Paterson, 20 Jamie Gibson, 21 Tom Kessell, 22 Rory Hutchinson, 23 Ahsee Tuala

Gloucester: 15 James Hook, 14 Charlie Sharples, 13 Matt Scott, 12 Mark Atkinson, 11 Jonny May,; 10 Billy Twelvetrees, 9 Greig Laidlaw (c), 8 Ben Morgan, 7 Jacob Rowan, 6 Ross Moriarty, 5 Mariano Galarza; 4 Tom Savage, 3 John Afoa; 2 Richard Hibbard, 1 Paddy McAllister
Replacements: 16 Motu Matu'u, 17 Cameron Orr, 18 Salesi Ma'afu, 19 Joe Latta, 20 Matt Kvesic, 21 Willi Heinz, 22 Billy Burns, 23 Henry Purdy

Date: Friday, October 28
Venue: Franklin's Gardens
Kick-off: 19:45 BST (18:45 GMT)
Referee: Tom Foley
Assistant Referees: Ross Campbell, Steve Lee
TMO: Stuart Terheege