Preview: Northampton v London Irish

Date published: February 12 2016

James Wilson comes in to the starting line-up for the Saints on Saturday as they welcome London Irish to Franklin’s Gardens.

The Kiwi makes his first start of the 2015/16 season on the left wing, George Pisi taking his place among the replacements for the Premiership tie as the only personnel change to the match day 23 that won dramtically at Harlequins.

Meanwhile, London Irish have been forced into making one change from the side that played Worcester last weekend.

Johnny Williams replaces Aseli Tikoirotuma in the midfield with the Fijian missing through injury. Andrew Fenby, Topsy Ojo and Ciaran Hearn all start together in the back three with Fergus Mulchrone alongside Williams in the midfield. Shane Geraghty and Scott Steele start at fly-half and scrum-half respectively.

Tom Court, David Paice and Halani Aulika are once again together in the front row with Matt Symons and Will Lloyd in the second row. Jebb Sinclair, Luke Narraway and Rob McCusker are the back row trio.

Gerard Ellis, Tom Smallbone, Leo Halavatau, Ian Nagle and Ofisa Treviranus make up the forward replacements. Darren Allinson, Theo Brophy Clews and Dom Waldouck will cover the backs.

London Irish Head Coach, Tom Coventry said: “It is important we build on the momentum gained by last weekend’s win against Worcester. The squad have trained well this week and are looking forward to the challenge of taking on Northampton in front of their home supporters.”

Form: Curiously Northampton Saints’ last three matches have all been won by the away side on the day, the Saints being victorious at Scarlets and Harlequins, and Wasps winning at Franklin’s Gardens. The East Midlanders have not lost successive games at their historic home since December 2012. London Irish’s last six fixtures in Premiership Rugby have all been won by the home side on the day whilst the Exiles have not triumphed on the road in the tournament since a trip to London Welsh on 28 February 2015. London Irish won 25-23 when the two clubs met at Madejski Stadium in Round 7 and have never achieved a Premiership Rugby double over Saints in the same season. The Exiles only victory at Franklin’s Gardens since 2004 was 14-13 in Premiership Rugby in September 2011. 

The teams:

Northampton: 15 Ben Foden, 14 Jamie Elliott, 13 Luther Burrell, 12 Harry Mallinder, 11 James Wilson, 10 Stephen Myler, 9 Lee Dickson (c), 8 Sam Dickinson, 7 Tom Wood, 6 Jamie Gibson, 5 Christian Day, 4 James Craig, 3 Kieran Brookes, 2 Mikey Haywood, 1 Alex Waller
Replacements: 16 Reece Marshall, 17 Ethan Waller, 18 Gareth Denman, 19 Victor Matfield, 20 Teimana Harrison, 21 Tom Kessell, 22 JJ Hanrahan, 23 George Pisi

London Irish: 15 Andrew Fenby, 14 Topsy Ojo, 13 Fergus Mulchrone, 12 Johnny Williams, 11 Ciaran Hearn, 10 Shane Geraghty, 9 Scott Steele, 8 Rob McCusker, 7 Luke Narraway, 6 Jebb Sinclair, 5 Will Lloyd, 4 Matt Symons, 3 Halani Aulica, 2 David Paice, 1 Tom Court 
Replacements: 16 Gerard Ellis, 17 Tom Smallbone, 18 Leo Halavatau, 19 Ian Nagle, 20 Ofisa Treviranus, 21 Darren Allinson, 22 Theo Brophy-Clews, 23 Dom Waldouck

Date: Saturday, February 13
Venue: Franklin's Gardens
Kick-off: 15:00 GMT
Referee: Tim Wigglesworth
Assistant Referees: Nigel Carrick, Wayne Falla
TMO: Sean Davey