Preview: Northampton v Bath

Date published: April 29 2016

Northampton boss Jim Mallinder has named a strong starting line-up for Saturday’s clash with Bath at Franklin’s Gardens.

The Saints are welcoming back a number of players from the treatment rooms as they continue their chase for a top six Premiership finish and the European Rugby Champions Cup place that comes with it.

Lee Dickson is back at scrum-half to captain the side, with Ben Foden, George North and Jamie Gibson also returning to the starting line-up and Kahn Fotuali’i coming onto the bench.

Meanwhile, Francois Louw returns to Bath's starting line-up and will take over the captaincy from George Ford, who starts amongst the replacements.

Louw leads from the openside flank, alongside blindside Matt Garvey and number eight David Denton. The last time the trio featured together in the back row was in the away victory against Wasps in mid-December.

Charlie Ewels and Dave Attwood will look to continue their successful partnership in the second row, with two wins from two starts together this season. Up front, David Wilson comes in at tighthead, with Rob Webber at hooker and Nathan Catt at loosehead.

In the backs, Rhys Priestland is named at fly-half having been deployed at full-back in his last two outings, with Chris Cook partnering him at scrum-half.

Anthony Watson returns to action at full-back, with Jeff Williams another new face in the backline – where he makes his second Aviva Premiership start of the season – opposite fellow wing Matt Banahan. Last week’s try-scorer, Ollie Devoto, is paired in the midfield with outside centre Jonathan Joseph.

Form: Realistically Northampton Saints need to win to keep in the mix for a European Champions Cup spot next season. The Saints have won only one of their last five matches in all competitions: 29-23 at home to Harlequins in round 18 of Aviva Premiership Rugby. Saints tripped up to Leicester in their most recent home game and have not lost successive Premiership rugby matches at Franklin’s Gardens since 2012/13. Bath Rugby have won three of their last five matches in Aviva Premiership Rugby and conceded a try bonus point in each of their last three. Bath’s only win on the road since February came on a trip to Gloucester in round 18. The Saints are unbeaten in their last nine Premiership Rugby fixtures against Bath since Bath’s 38-8 victory at The Recreation Ground in February 2011. Bath have won just once at Franklin’s Gardens since 2000: 37-30 against Saracens in the Premiership in November 2004.

The teams:

Northampton: 15 Ben Foden, 14 Ken Pisi, 13 George Pisi, 12 Luther Burrell, 11 George North, 10 Stephen Myler, 9 Lee Dickson (c), 8 Teimana Harrison, 7 Tom Wood, 6 Jamie Gibson, 5 Christian Day, 4 Courtney Lawes, 3 Kieran Brookes, 2 Mikey Haywood, 1 Alex Waller 
Replacements: 16 Reece Marshall, 17 Campese Ma’Afu, 18 Paul Hill, 19 Victor Matfield, 20 Ben Nutley, 21 Kahn Fotuali’i, 22 Jj Hanrahan, 23 Harry Mallinder

Bath: 15 Anthony Watson, 14 Jeff Williams, 13 Jonathan Joseph, 12 Ollie Devoto, 11 Matt Banahan, 10 Rhys Priestland, 9 Chris Cook, 8 David Denton, 7 Francois Louw (c), 6 Matt Garvey, 5 Dave Attwood, 4 Charlie Ewels, 3 David Wilson, 2 Rob Webber, 1 Nathan Catt 
Replacements: 16 Tom Dunn, 17 Nick Auterac, 18 Max Lahiff, 19 Dominic Day, 20 Leroy Houston, 21 Will Homer, 22 George Ford, 23 Max Clark

Date: Saturday, April 30
Venue: Franklin's Gardens
Kick-off: 15:15 BST (14:15 GMT)
Referee: Wayne Barnes
Assistant Referees: Paul Burton, Nigel Carrick
TMO: Sean Davey