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Preview: Northampton v Harlequins

02nd January 2014 10:54

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Lee Dickson Training

Lee Dickson: At nine for Saints

Northampton boss Jim Mallinder has made three changes to his starting XV for Friday's Premiership clash with Harlequins at Franklin's Gardens.

Lee Dickson returns at scrum-half, swapping the starting role with Kahn Fotuali'i, while Phil Dowson comes into the back row for Tom Wood. Ken Pisi has been carrying a leg injury for a couple of weeks and is replaced at full back by Tom Collins.

Collins' place on the bench is taken by Fa'atoina Autagavaia, who will make his first team debut should he see action. The Samoan international arrived at Franklin's Gardens before Christmas and played in the Wanderers' win at Coventry on Friday, December 27.

Meanwhile, Harlequins director of rugby Conor O'Shea has also made three changes to his run-on side that beat Exeter Chiefs last weekend.

Tim Molenaar, Karl Dickson and Tom Guest have all been promoted to starting line-up.

Molenaar replaces centre Tom Casson who received nine stitches to a head wound after last week's game, while Danny Care and Luke Wallace picked up minor knocks and have not recovered in time.

Among the replacements Sam Stuart and Joe Trayfoot come in as cover.

Form: Northampton Saints are the best team in Aviva Premiership rugby on current form having dropped just four points from a possible thirty. The Saints single defeat in the tournament this season remains 24-26 at Gloucester in Round Three. Northampton have lost just one of their last nine Premiership games at Franklin's Gardens: 8-36 to Leicester on March 30. Harlequins only reversal in their last six outings in all competitions was 3-14 at Bath in the Premiership on December 21 - Quins have not lost successive away games in the Premiership since visiting Saracens and Gloucester in March. Northampton won 13-6 when the two sides met in the Premiership in Round Two and are attempting to achieve a league double over the Londoners for the first time since season 2004/05. Harlequins have won on three of their last four visits to Franklin's Gardens in all tournaments.

The teams:

Northampton: 15 Tom Collins, 14 Jamie Elliott, 13 George Pisi, 12 Luther Burrell, 11 George North, 10 Stephen Myler, 9 Lee Dickson, 8 Samu Manoa, 7 Phil Dowson, 6 Calum Clark, 5 Christian Day 4 Courtney Lawes, 3 Salesi Ma'afu, 2 Dylan Hartley (c), 1 Alex Wakker.
Replacements: 16 Mike Haywood, 17 Ethan Waller, 18 Tom Mercey, 19 Sam Dickinson, 20 Tom Wood, 21 Kahn Fotuali'i, 22 Glenn Dickson, 23 Fa'atoina Autagavaia.

Harlequins: 15 Mike Brown, 14 Charlie Walker, 13 Matt Hopper, 12 Tim Molenaar, 11 Sam Smith, 10 Nick Evans, 9 Karl Dickson, 8 Nick Easter, 7 Chris Robshaw (c), 6 Tom Guest, 5 George Robson, 4 Charlie Matthews, 3 Will Collier, 2 Dave Ward, 1 Joe Marler.
Replacements: 16 Max Crumpton, 17 Mark Lambert, 18 Paul Doran Jones, 19 Nick Kennedy, 20 Joe Trayfoot, 21 Sam Stuart, 22 Ben Botica, 23 Ollie Lindsay-Hague.

Date: Friday, January 3
Kick-off: 19:45 GMT
Venue: Franklin's Gardens
Referee: Greg Garner
Assistant referees: Paul Dix, Paul Burton
Television match official: David Grashoff

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