Preview: Northampton v Worcester

Date published: February 26 2016

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Northampton have made four changes to their starting line-up for their Premiership clash with Worcester at Franklin's Gardens on Saturday.

Ken Pisi and Tom Collins come onto the wings, with Victor Matfield and Teimana Harrison returning to the pack at lock and number eight.

Elsewhere Lee Dickson and Stephen Myler form an experienced half-back combination while Harry Mallinder and Luther Burrell are the centres.

Meanwhile, Worcester director of rugby Dean Ryan names an unchanged side from last weekend's win against Sale Sharks, as Warriors go in search of doing the double over the Saints.

Worcester sealed a dramatic 13-12 win back in October's Premiership curtain-raiser with Saints, thanks to Tom Heathcote's last-minute drop-goal and the fly-half is given the nod ahead of this week's Round 14 fixture. 

Heathcote, who also successfully converted six out of seven kicks last weekend, forms the half-back combination with Springbok international Francois Hougaard. 

Ryan Mills and Wynand Olivier start in the centre while Chris Pennell, Bryce Heem and Cooper Vuna complete the back three. 

In the pack, Georgians Val Rapava Ruskin and Jaba Bregvadze start alongside tighthead Nick Schonert, with the experienced Donncha O'Callaghan next to Darren Barry in the second-row.

GJ van Velze skippers the side from the back-row alongside fellow countryman Dewald Potgieter and openside flanker Carl Kirwan, who bagged his first try for the club last weekend. 

Ryan said: "That first game against Saints will be a big motivator for them as well as us. We understand the pressure we're under and nailing results is very important to us.

"After last weekend's defeat at Newcastle, they'll be wanting to come out and play again and that'll be a huge challenge for us.

"Hopefully last week's win will be a catalyst for us to keep going and playing with the same intent and to get something else."

Form: Since the turn of the New Year Northampton Saints record in the Premiership is won three, lost three. The Saints only defeat at Franklin’s Gardens in any tournament since early November was 11-24 to Wasps in Round 10 of the Premiership. Worcester Warriors thirteen game losing run in all tournaments ended with their 31-23 defeat of Sale Sharks at Sixways on Saturday. Warriors are one of just two sides to have lost all six away games in Aviva Premiership Rugby this season, the other being London Irish. Worcester won the closest of games by a single point courtesy of a Tom Heathcote penalty in injury time when the two clubs met in round 1. Worcester have only once before achieved a season’s double over Saints, in 2004/05.

The teams:

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

Worcester: 15 Chris Pennell, 14 Bryce Heem, 13 Wynand Olivier, 12 Ryan Mills, 11 Cooper Vuna, 10 Tom Heathcote, 9 Francois Hougaard, 8 GJ van Velze (c), 7 Carl Kirwan, 6 Dewald Potgieter, 5 Darren Barry, 4 Donncha O'Callaghan, 3 Nick Schonert, 2 Jaba Bregvadze, 1 Val Rapava Ruskin
Replacements: 16 Niall Annett, 17 Na'ama Leleimalefaga, 18 James Johnston, 19 Dan Sanderson, 20 Phil Dowson, 21 Luke Baldwin, 22 Ryan Lamb, 23 Andy Symons

Date: Saturday, 27 February
Venue: Franklin's Gardens
Kick-off: 14:45 GMT
Referee: Matthew Carley
Assistant Referees: Roy Maybank, Nigel Carrick
TMO: Stuart Terheege

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