Preview: Northampton v Racing 92

Date published: December 17 2015

Northampton Saints boss Jim Mallinder has made four changes to his starting XV for Friday's Champions Cup clash with Racing 92 at Franklin's Gardens.

Three of the changes are in the backline and one up front. Amongst the backs, Stephen Myler returns to the run-on side at fly-half where he replaces JJ Hanrahan.

Myler partners his captain, Lee Dickson, in the half-backs, with Samoan pair Ahsee Tuala and George Pisi coming in at wing and centre respectively.

In the forwards, Jamie Gibson also returns to the starting XV on the blindside flank. This means that Courtney Lawes joins Victor Matfield in the engine room after he packed down on the side of the scrum in last weekend's corresponding fixture in Colombes.

Lawes said Saints will have to be on top form from the first whistle against Racing 92. After a promising series of opening exchanges in Paris last Saturday, Saints conceded two quick-fire tries which put them on the back foot and eventually suffered a 33-3 defeat.

And Lawes feels there cannot be a repeat of that in the return leg.

“Racing is a team full of quality players,” he explained. 

“You’ve got to front up and be physical, and they were and we were last week. There were a few bruised and battered bodies this week, but we’ll recover and be ready for Friday.

“We know that what we did last Saturday wasn’t good enough. People want to see something different and we need to come out firing.”

Meanwhile, Racing 92 have named the same run-on side that did duty last weekend. Dan Carter continues at fly-half, after impressing in his debut for the Top 14 side, and is joined in the half-backs by Mike Phillips.

Brice Dulin continues at full-back while Joe Rokocoko and Juan Imhoff start on the wings and Casey Laulala and Henry Chavancy are the midfield combination.

Up front, captain and hooker Dimitri Szarzewski packs down alongside props Eddy Ben Arous and Ben Tameifuna. Chris Masoe starts at number eight with Yannick Nyanga and Wenceslas Lauret the flankers while Francois van der Merwe and Luke Charteris are the two locks.

The only change in Racing's matchday squad is amongst the replacements where Marc Andreu comes in for Alexandre Dumoulin as backline cover.

Form: Racing 92 remain undefeated in three matches against Northampton Saints after a 33-3 victory in their round 3 encounter last weekend. Northampton Saints have lost their last four Champions Cup games against French opposition, these defeats coming by an average scoreline of 31-7. Racing 92 have won seven and drawn one of their last nine matches in the Champions Cup, losing only once (by one point to Saracens in the opening round of this season). Racing are undefeated in their last four matches away from home in the Champions Cup (W3, D1)

The teams:

Northampton: 15 Ben Foden, 14 Ah See Tuala, 13 George Pisi, 12 Luther Burrell, 11 George North 10 Stephen Myler, 9 Lee Dickson, 8 Sam Dickinson, 7 Teimana Harrison, 6 Jamie Gibson, 5 Victor Matfield, 4 Courtney Lawes, 3 Kieran Brookes, 2 Mikey Haywood, 1 Alex Waller.
Replacements: 16 Matti Williams, 17 Ethan Waller, 18 Paul Hill, 19 Christian Day, 20 Michael Paterson, 21 Kahn Fotuali'i, 22 JJ Hanrahan, 23 Jamie Elliott.

Racing 92: 15 Brice Dulin, 14 Joe Rokocoko, 13 Casey Laulala, 12 Henry Chavancy, 11 Juan Imhoff; 10 Dan Carter, 9 Mike Phillips, 8 Chris Masoe, 7 Yannick Nyanga, 6 Wenceslas Lauret, 5 Francois van der Merwe, 4 Luke Charteris, 3 Ben Tameifuna, 2 Dimitri Szarzewski, 1 Eddy Ben Arous.
Replacements: 16 Camille Chat, 17 Julien Brugnaut, 18 Cedate Gomes Sa, 19 Manuel Carizza, 20 Antonie Claassen, 21 Maxime Machenaud, 22 Johan Goosen, 23 Marc Andreu.

Date: Friday, December 18
Venue: Franklin's Gardens
Kick-off: 19:45 GMT
Referee: Nigel Owens (Wales)
Assistant Referees: Gwyn Morris (Wales), Wayne Davies (Wales)
TMO: Derek Bevan (Wales)