Preview: Northampton v Scarlets

Date published: November 17 2011

Northampton director of rugby Jim Mallinder has made no changes for Friday's Heineken Cup Round 2 fixture against the Scarlets.

Northampton Saints director of rugby Jim Mallinder has named the same XV for Friday's Heineken Cup Round 2 home clash against the Scarlets.

The Saints enter the game on the back of the 23-21 loss at Thomond Park, and while Mallinder acknowledged that memories of the loss to Munster won't go away straight away they will also provide some motivation for the Saints team.

“Games like last Saturday's don't disappear from your mind straight away, but you learn very quickly in this game to move on,” he said.

“You have to move on to the next game, which for us is Friday night's game against the Scarlets.

“The Heineken Cup is a tough competition and we're in a tough pool. The Scarlets showed with their win over Castres that they deserve to be treated with respect. They've got some exciting backs and a dynamic set of forwards who are very competitive at the breakdown and will ask lots of questions of us at the set piece.

“But myself and the other coaches have been very pleased with the reaction of our players in training this week. We know that we have been playing well and everyone has been positive in their attitude towards Friday's game.”

Meanwhile, the Scarlets will be eager to back up their opening round victory over Castres.

The combination and talent of World Cup performers Rhys Priestland, Jon Davies, Scott Williams, George North and Sean Lamont in the Scarlets starting backline is sure to bring plenty of fire to the Pool 1 fixture.

Scarlets Head Coach Nigel Davies has left his victorious Scarlets side largely unchanged. Wales' Six Nations captain and Scarlets skipper, Matthew Rees starts at hooker, alongside prop Rhys Thomas and experienced European campaigner, Iestyn Thomas in his 53rd European game in a Scarlets shirt.

A strong back-row combination of Aaron Shingler, Johnathan Edwards and Ben Morgan remains the same with Tongan international Sione Timani getting a start in the second-row alongside Damian Welch.

Priestland starts at fly-half, with the experience and impact of one of Europe's top point scorers and most astute rugby minds, Stephen Jones available to the Scarlets on the bench. Young scrum-half Gareth Davies, who has impressed over the past season and gets a start at nine and second-row Mat Gilbert, who has impressed the region with performances with Llanelli RFC and the Scarlets against Leicester in the LV= Cup gets his first European chance with a place on the bench.

“The effort, endeavour and commitment from all our players last weekend was evident, and we'll have to bring real belief, the ability to adapt our game and be sharp this weekend because it's going to be a big challenge,” said Scarlets Head Coach Davies.

“We have got some momentum now over the past six games and the players have been playing for the jersey and on Friday night they'll need to show real intensity in their performances and put everything into the battles they face.

“This pool is a tough one but that what excites and challenges us as coaches and players and it's a fantastic group to be involved in. We have to be very respectful of the quality that Northampton bring to the game; set piece will be key and the boys know that.

“I was pleased with the result on Saturday – Castres are a good side and very physical; they batter sides and we did a good job against them. We have to step it up again this week and there were some wake up calls in a couple of area areas.

“We'll have to react cleverly on the pitch as well, and adapt to the situations in front of us. The boys have been on the edge this week – but there's a lot of focus too, they know what they have to achieve this weekend.”

The teams:

Northampton: 15 Ben Foden, 14 Chris Ashton, 13 Jon Clarke, 12 James Downey, 11 Vas Artemyev, 10 Ryan Lamb, 9 Lee Dickson, 8 Roger Wilson, 7 Tom Wood, 6 Calum Clark, 5 Mark Sorenson, 4 Courtney Lawes, 3 Brian Mujati, 2 Dylan Hartley, 1 Soane Tonga'uiha.
Replacements: 16 Mikey Haywood, 17 Alex Waller, 18 Paul Doran-Jones, 19 Samu Manoa, 20 Phil Dowson, 21 Martin Roberts, 22 Steve Myler, 23 George Pisi.

Scarlets: 15 Liam Williams, 14 George North, 13 Scott Williams, 12 Jonathan Davies, 11 Sean Lamont, 10 Rhys Priestland, 9 Gareth Davies, 8 Ben Morgan, 7 Jon Edwards, 6 Aaron Shingler, 5 Damian Welch, 4 Sione Timani, 3 Rhys Thomas, 2 Matthew Rees, 1 Iestyn Thomas.
Replacements: 16 Ken Owens, 17 Phil John, 18 Rhodri Jones, 19 Lou Reed, 20 Matt Gilbert, 21 Rhodri Williams, 22 Stephen Jones, 23 Daniel Evans.

Date: Friday, November 18
Kick-off: 20:00
Venue: Franklin's Gardens
Referee: Peter Fitzgibbon (Ireland)