Preview: Saracens v Northampton

Date published: March 4 2016

England duo Alex Goode and Jamie George have both been included in the Saracens starting XV to face Northampton, with the pair returning to Premiership action after being released for Eddie Jones’ training camp earlier this week.

Full-back Alex Goode comes into the Saracens back three to join Chris Wyles (left wing) and Mike Ellery (right wing), and will be joined by Duncan Taylor and Brad Barritt in the Sarries backline.

Taylor lines up at outside centre after playing for Scotland in Rome last weekend, and Barritt returns to captain the side in the number twelve jersey.

Nils Mordt comes into the team to start at fly-half to replace Charlie Hodgson who is ruled out of the game with a neck injury sustained in Saracens 36-36 draw away to Sale Sharks. Mordt is joined by Ben Spencer in the halves, reuniting the club’s 2015/16 LV=Cup winning halfback pairing for the first time this season.  

Up front, Richard Barrington starts at loosehead prop in the place of Titi Lamositele who is away on international duty with the USA Eagles.

Barrington is joined by Petrus Du Plessis (tighthead) and George, with the England hooker returning to Sarries action as the Six Nations takes a break over the weekend.

Elsewhere in the Sarries pack, Hayden Smith and Jim Hamilton continue to partner each other at second row, whilst Michael Rhodes (blindside flanker), Kelly Brown (openside flanker) and Jackson Wray (number eight) are named as Saracens’ loose forward trio.

Meanwhile, there are two changes to the Northampton team which began last weekend’s win over Worcester, with George Pisi and England forward Courtney Lawes coming into the starting XV.

Form: Saints lifted the trophy in 2014, beating Saracens at Twickenham in dramatic fashion, but Mark McCall's side gained their revenge the following year, beating table-topping Northampton in the semi-finals before going on to win the competition. Go even further back and Northampton went to Allianz Park in the 2013 semi-finals – Pisi's first visit to the venue – and won 27-13. Saracens are leading the way this time around, top of the table through 14 rounds, while Saints currently sit outside the top four. Saracens sit at the top of the pile this season but they have picked up just seven league points out of a possible 15 in their last three games. However, their only home defeat in any tournament this season came when Wasps visited Allianz Park last month. Northampton Saints' only defeat in their last four matches was by a single point at Newcastle Falcons in Round 13 of Premiership Rugby but they have won just twice on the road in the competition in the past 12 months. Saracens were victorious 12-6 at Franklin's Gardens when they met earlier in the season and have not achieved a season's double over the East Midlanders since 2012/13.

The teams:

Saracens: 15 Alex Goode, 14 Mike Ellery, 13 Duncan Taylor, 12 Brad Barritt (c), 11 Chris Wyles, 10 Nils Mordt, 9 Ben Spencer, 8 Jackson Wray, 7 Kelly Brown, 6 Michael Rhodes, 5 Jim Hamilton, 4 Hayden Smith, 3 Petrus Du Plessis, 2 Jamie George, 1 Richard Barrington
Replacements: 16 Jared Saunders, 17 Hayden Thompson-Stringer, 18 Juan Figallo, 19 Alistair Hargreaves, 20 Jacques Burger, 21 Neil De Kock, 22 Marcelo Bosch, 23 Nathan Earle

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

Date: Saturday, March 5
Venue: Allianz Park
Kick-off: 15:15 GMT
Referee: Thomas Foley
Assistant Referees: Roy Maybank, Andy Watson
TMO: Rowan Kitt