Preview: Northampton Saints v Wasps

Date published: September 23 2016

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Ken Pisi will hit his 100th appearance for the club when he runs out with the rest of the Northampton Saints XV to face Wasps on Saturday.

He is the second Saints player to do so this season with Luther Burrell racking up his 100th match for the club against Bath in Round 1.

Like Burrell, the winger has played a big part in the Saints' successes in recent years, playing in both Premiership finals as well as helping to win the 2014 European Rugby Challenge Cup and finish top of the table 12 months later.

With an increasing number of the club’s squad having passed this landmark director of rugby Jim Mallinder says that this is an asset to build on.

"Having players with that amount of experience is a huge strength to the whole squad," he commented.

"To have a solid core of people with that many appearances for the club and to have players with that much knowledge of the game to draw on week-in, week-out is fantastic for us. Players like Ken and Luther, as well as Dylan Hartley, Lee Dickson, Stephen Myler, Ben Foden, people who have been at the club for that long and know us that well is a brilliant basis for us to play on.

"We've seen these players come from being good Aviva Premiership prospects to being successful international players while they've been at the club. To see them work so hard, get that many appearances and helping us achieve success as a club over a number of years is very satisfying."

In other team news Nic Groom comes into the starting XV for the first time this season.

Meanwhile, Danny Cipriani is set to make his 100th appearance for Wasps this weekend

James Gaskell again skippers the side and there are returns to the starting line-up for Matt Mullan, Sam Jones, Nathan Hughes and Josh Bassett.

Frank Halai misses out through a hamstring niggle, but there are returns from injury for Dan Robson and Marty Moore, who are primed to make an impact from the bench. Also among the match day 23, ready to make his Premiership debut, is Nick De Luca who featured prominently for Wasps during the Singha 7s and pre-season.

Ahead of the trip to Midlands neighbours Northampton, boss Dai Young knows Wasps will need to up their game again at Franklin's Gardens, against a Saints side who have also made a strong start to the season.

"It's been a good start to the Aviva Premiership for us but it's important for us to keep our feet on the ground as well," he said.

"We haven't had an 80-minute performance yet this season that we've been totally satisfied with. We're pleased with a lot of facets of our game, but there are still areas we need to improve.

"We're going into a different challenge again this weekend and we know we need to step up our level of performance again, to put ourselves in a position to get a result against a quality Saints side at Franklin's Gardens.

"Northampton have certainly recruited well and they will be as physical as ever. They always have a very good scrum and their driving lineout is right up there again. They will always look to take you on at the set-piece and with the physical ball carriers they have, the battle of the gain line with or without the ball, will be huge. We will need to meet that physicality head on."

Form: Northampton Saints only win in the first three rounds of Premiership Rugby was 32-10 at Bristol in round two. The Saints have lost two of their last three matches at Franklin’s Gardens, to Leicester in round 20 and to Bath in round one. Wasps have dropped only one possible league point so far this season, in the opening round 25-20 victory over Exeter at Ricoh Arena – ending on three tries. The only other occasion that Wasps won their first three games of a new Premiership Rugby season was in 2009/10, where they lost at London Irish in round four. Wasps won both encounters with Northampton in Premiership Rugby last season but have not achieved successive victories at Franklin’s Gardens since 2005.

The teams:

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

Wasps: 15 Rob Miller, 14 Christian Wade, 13 Elliot Daly, 12 Jimmy Gopperth, 11 Josh Bassett, 10 Danny Cipriani, 9 Joe Simpson, 8 Nathan Hughes, 7 Guy Thompson, 6 Sam Jones, 5 James Gaskell (c), 4 Matt Symons, 3 Jake Cooper-Woolley, 2 Tommy Taylor, 1 Matt Mullan
Replacements: 16 Ashley Johnson, 17 Simon McIntyre, 18 Marty Moore, 19 Kearnan Myall, 20 Thomas Young, 21 Dan Robson, 22 Kyle Eastmond, 23 Nick De Luca

Referee: Luke Pearce
Assistant Referees: Steve Lee & Andy Watson
TMO: Rowan Kitt

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