Preview: Northampton v Scarlets

Date published: November 13 2015

Northampton boss Jim Mallinder has made four changes to his starting XV for Saturday's Champions Cup clash with Scarlets at Franklin's Gardens.

Club captain Lee Dickson returns at scrum-half, with Ken Pisi, JJ Hanrahan and Mikey Haywood the other players to come into the run-on side.

Dickson replaces Kahn Fotuali’i, Pisi comes in for Jamie Elliot on the right wing while Hanrahan is preferred to Stephen Myler at fly-half and Haywood takes over from Dylan Hartley.

Meanwhile, Scarlets head coach Wayne Pivac has made four changes, one of which positional, to the side that narrowly lost to Leinster last weekend.

Michael Tagicakibau moves to the right wing with Canadian Rugby World Cup sensation DTH van der Merwe making a return to action for what will be his third Scarlets appearance. Steve Shingler has recovered from a toe injury that kept him out of last week's game.

In the pack Samoan international Maselino Paulino will make his first start for the region with Lewis Rawlins moving to the replacements bench.

Centre Gareth Owen will make his 50th appearance for the region hoping to mark the occasion with a victory in the opening round of the competition.

"We're going in with an open mind; we've got everything to gain and nothing to lose," said Pivac.

"We're probably seeded last in the pool on last year's results but we're going to take it game by game. 

"We will look at each opposition in its own right and each will be a huge challenge in different ways. 

"We're looking at it week by week but there's no doubt we're going out to get a result this weekend."

Form: Northampton Saints are aiming to begin with a win after losing their last two matches of the 2014/15 season by a combined margin of 56 points. Three of the last four clashes between these teams have gone the way of Northampton (W3, L1). Scarlets have the best record of any Welsh team against Northampton (W3, L4); in fact they are the only Welsh side to have won more than once against the Saints. Northampton have won their last five matches against Welsh opposition, each by margins of more than 10 points. Scarlets have failed to win an away fixture in two of their last three Champions Cup campaigns.

The teams:

Northampton: 15 Ben Foden, 14 Ken Pisi, 13 George Pisi, 12 Luther Burrell, 11 George North, 10 JJ Hanrahan, 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 Matti Williams, 17 Ethan Waller, 18 Paul Hill, 19 Michael Paterson, 20 Teimana Harrison, 21 Kahn Fotuali’i, 22 Stephen Myler, 23 Ahsee Tuala.

Scarlets: 15 Aled Thomas, 14 Michael Tagicakibau, 13 Gareth Owen, 12 Hadleigh Parkes, 11 DTH van der Merwe, 10 Steven Shingler, 9 Gareth Davies, 8 John Barclay (c), 7 James Davies, 6 Aaron Shingler, 5 Maselino Paulino, 4 Jake Ball, 3 Peter Edwards, 2 Emyr Phillips, 1 Rob Evans.
Replacements: 16 Kirby Myhill, 17 Phil John, 18 Will Taylor, 19 Tom Price, 20 Lewis Rawlins, 21 Aled Davies, 22 Regan King, 23 Tom Williams.

Date: Saturday, November 14
Venue: Franklin's Gardens
Kick-off: 19:45 GMT
Referee: Romain Poite (France)
Assistant referees: Tual Trainini (France), Pierre Brousset (France)
Television match official: Eric Gonthier (France)
Timekeeper: Mike Hamlin (England)