Preview: Northampton v Exeter

Date published: October 7 2011

Youngster James Craig will make his first start for Northampton as the Saints look to end a frustrating spell against Exeter on Saturday.

Youngster James Craig will make his first start for Northampton as the Saints look to end a frustrating spell against Exeter on Saturday.

Northampton have won just one of their opening five encounters as they struggle to adjust to life without a number of star players who are on international duty.

Director of Rugby Jim Mallinder believes his team should have at least two more wins to their name.

“It's frustrating that we're not playing well and not finishing,” said Mallinder.

“You get opportunities in games and you've got to be good enough to take them. Last week we didn't do that.

“There are parts of the game that are working well. We've got a good set-piece and our defence was a lot better last week. But we've been working on the little things we need to improve in our attacking play this week, and if we put those into practice on Saturday then we'll play well.”

Mallinder has made two changes to the team that lost to Worcester last time out.

The 22-year-old Craig comes in on the openside in place of Ben Nutley who drops out of the matchday 22.

At the crucial fly-half berth, Ryan Lamb replaces Stephen Myler with Myler forced to settle for a place on the bench.

The Chiefs too have a player making his first Premiership start for the club, with Ben Moon replacing Brett Sturgess at prop. Hooker Neil Clark slots in next to Moon in place of Chris Whitehead who is not part of the squad this weekend.

On the wing, Josh Tatupu returns from injury to replace Nic Sestaret.

While Saints may be struggling at present, Exeter assistant coach Ali Hepher knows that they remain a potent side.

“It's a test for any side going there,” said Hepher.

“They are a tough team to beat and we are fully expecting a battle up there. They could easily have won four out of five games, so they will be as tough a battle as they'll ever be and they'll be looking to put in a big performance before their World Cup guys come back.

“They have massive threats across the board and going there is as tough as it comes. At home I know the Saints look to raise it to another level, so we have to go up there with our game plan and put in a level of performance to get something out of the game.”

Northampton:15 Greig Tonks, 14 Paul Diggin, 13 Jon Clarke, 12 James Downey, 11 Scott Armstrong, 10 Ryan Lamb, 9 Lee Dickson, 8 Phil Dowson (c), 7 James Craig, 6 Calum Clark, 5 Christian Day, 4 Samu Manoa, 3 Brian Mujati, 2 Brett Sharman, 1 Paul Doran Jones.
Replacements: 16 Mike Haywood, 17 Alex Waller, 18 Tom Mercey, 19 Mark Sorenson, 20 Roger Wilson, 21 Martin Roberts, 22 Stephen Myler, 23 Tom May.

Exeter: 15 Luke Arscott, 14 Josh Tatupu, 13 Sireli Naqelevuki, 12 Jason Shoemark, 11 Matt Jess, 10 Ignacio Mieres, 9 Haydn Thomas, 8 Richard Baxter, 7 James Scaysbrook, 6 Tom Johnson, 5 Aly Muldowney, 4 Tom Hayes (capt), 3 John Andress, 2 Neil Clark, 1 Ben Moon.
Replacements: 16 Chris Whitehead, 17 Brett Sturgess, 18 Hoani Tui, 19 James Phillips, 20 Ben White, 21 Kevin Barrett, 22 Gareth Steenson, 23 Bryan Rennie.

Date: Saturday, October 8
Kick-off: 14:30 (13:30 GMT)
Venue: Franklin's Gardens
Referee: Greg Garner