Preview: Northampton v Gloucester

Date published: September 4 2014

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Premiership champions Northampton Saints kick off their title defence on Friday at Franklin's Gardens against Gloucester.

Premiership champions Northampton Saints kick off their title defence on Friday at Franklin's Gardens against Gloucester.

The Saints welcome the Cherry and Whites with a starting line-up that shows just the one change from that which began last weekend's final pre-season game against Newport-Gwent Dragons.

Stephen Myler takes his place at fly-half, replacing Will Hooley, who drops to the bench.

Otherwise it is as you were for the Saints, who have included new signing Jon Fisher on the bench.

Meanwhile, no fewer than five players are making their Premiership debut for Gloucester.

The debutants are Richard Hibbard, John Afoa, Jacob Rowan, Greig Laidlaw and James Hook. Only Rowan has previously appeared in the competition – as a replacement for Leeds Carnegie in 2010-11.

It's a very similar side to the one that started the final pre-season friendly game at Parc y Scarlets. Eleven of that side remain, with only Laidlaw, Dan Murphy, James Hudson and Rowan coming into the starting line-up.

Of note amongst the replacements are the names of summer signings Mark Atkinson and Steve McColl, who will also make their Premiership debuts for Gloucester should they take the field.

Unavailable for selection for Gloucester are Gareth Evans, Matt Kvesic (foot) and Nick Wood (back spasms).

Both sides won their respective home fixtures last season, with Gloucester hoping to win at Franklin's Gardens for the first time since February 2013.

Form: Saints went five unbeaten to lift the Aviva Premiership title with a final defeat of Saracens and have won their last seven season openers in the division since losing 32-0 to Leicester Tigers in round one back in 2005. Gloucester meanwhile haven't been victorious in the opening Aviva Premiership fixture since beating Bath in 2009. The last seven Aviva Premiership matches between Northampton and Gloucester have all been won by the home side on the day – further history suggesting the Saints will come out on top. Gloucester haven't won at Franklin's Gardens since 2011.

The teams:

Northampton: 15 James Wilson, 14 Ken Pisi, 13 George Pisi, 12 Luther Burrell, 11 George North, 10 Stephen Myler, 9 Lee Dickson, 8 Samu Manoa, 7 Tom Wood, 6 Calum Clark, 5 Christian Day, 4 Courtney Lawes, 3 Salesi Ma'afu, 2 Dylan Hartley (c), 1 Alex Corbisiero
Replacements: 16 Ross McMillan, 17 Alex Waller, 18 Gareth Denman, 19 James Craig, 20 Jon Fisher, 21 Kahn Fotuali'i, 22 Will Hooley, 23 Ben Foden

Gloucester: 15 Rob Cook, 14 Charlie Sharples, 13 Henry Trinder, 12 Billy Twelvetrees (c), 11 Jonny May, 10 James Hook, 9 Greig Laidlaw, 8 Ben Morgan, 7 Jacob Rowan, 6 Sione Kalamafoni, 5 James Hudson, 4 Tom Savage, 3 John Afoa, 2 Richard Hibbard, 1 Dan Murphy
Replacements: 16 Darren Dawidiuk, 17 Yann Thomas, 18 Sila Puafisi, 19 Tom Palmer, 20 Ross Moriarty, 21 Dan Robson, 22 Mark Atkinson, 23 Steve McColl

Date: Friday, September 5
Venue: Franklin's Gardens
Kickoff: 19:45 (local, 18:45 GMT)
Referee: JP Doyle
Assistant Referees: Paul Burton, Robin Goodliffe
TMO: Trevor Fisher

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