Preview: Northampton v Saracens

Date published: March 7 2014

Saints boss Jim Mallinder has rotated his squad ahead of Saturday's LV= Cup semi-final against Saracens at Franklin's Gardens.

Saints boss Jim Mallinder has rotated his squad ahead of Saturday's LV= Cup semi-final against Saracens at Franklin's Gardens.

Full-back Ben Foden, fly-half Will Hooley, prop Tom Mercey and flanker Ben Nutley are all promoted from the bench while there also are returns to the starting line-up for wing Tom Collins and second row James Craig.

There's plenty of experience amongst the replacements with Samu Manoa and Calum Clark covering cover for the second row and back row respectively while first-choice fly-half Stephen Myler is also on the bench.

Meanwhile, LV=Cup breakthrough of the year nominee Ben Ransom starts at full-back for Saracens with Jack Wilson starting on the left wing.

The duo is joined in the Saracens back-line by outside centre Tim Streather who has been impressive form this season.

At half-back, 23-year-old Ben Spencer starts his fifth game of the season at scrum-half. Currently the competitions leading point's scorer, Spencer is partnered by Nils Mordt who captains the side from fly-half.

In the pack, in his debut season in the English top flight, loosehead prop Richard Barrington wears the number one shirt and is joined in the front row by 23-year-old hooker Jamie George. The durable Petrus du Plessis completes the front row at tighthead prop.

Elsewhere in the pack former Ireland U20s lock forward Eoin Sherrif starts in the second row.

In the back row England U20s Junior World Championship winner Matt Hankin starts at openside flanker. The 20-year-old back-rower has made a notable contribution thus far in the competition as he leads the tackles made standings whilst maintaining a 92% tackle completion rate.

He is joined by Saracens academy graduate and the LV=Cup's leading try scorer Jackson Wray, who starts at number eight.

Saracens boss Mark McCall highlighted the importance of this clash.

“The LV=Cup is an important competition for Saracens,” he said.

“And it is absolutely correct that the players who have earned this place in the semi-finals will now have the opportunity to go on and win a place in the final.

“If a player is good enough to be contracted to Saracens, he is 100% good enough to play in a semi-final. That's the way we choose to run the club.”

The teams:

Northampton: 15 Ben Foden, 14 Ken Pisi, 13 George Pisi, 12 Tom Stephenson, 11 Tom Collins, 10 Will Hooley, 9 Kahn Fotuali'i, 8 Sam Dickinson, 7 Phil Dowson (capt), 6 Ben Nutley, 5 Christian Day, 4 James Craig, 3 Tom Mercey, 2 Mike Haywood, 1 Ethan Waller.
Replacements: 16 Ross McMillan, 17 Alex Waller, 18 Gareth Denman, 19 Samu Manoa, 20 Calum Clark, 21 Alex Day, 22 Stephen Myler, 23 Fa'atoina Autagavaia.

Saracens: 15 Ben Ransom, 14 Michael Tagicakibau, 13 Tim Streather, 12 Marcelo Bosch, 11 Jack Wilson; 10 Nils Mordt (c), 9 Ben Spencer, 8 Jackson Wray. 7 Matt Hankin, 6 Justin Melck, 5 Mouritz Botha, 4 Eoin Sherrif, 3 Petrus du Plessis, 2 Jamie George, 1 Richard Barrington.
Replacements: 16 Jared Saunders, 17 Rhys Gill, 18 James Johnston, 19 Hayden Smith, 20 Nick De Jager, 21 Neil de Kock, 22 Charlie Hodgson, 23 Chris Wyles.

Date: Saturday, March 8
Venue: Franklin's Gardens
Kick-off: 12:30 GMT
Referee: Leighton Hodges (Wales)
Assistant Referees: Rhys Thomas (Wales), Kelvin Shorte (Wales)
TMO: Derek Bevan (Wales)