Planet Rugby

Preview: Northampton v Wasps

25th March 2011 11:25

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Rob Webber v Sarries

Back from injury: Rob Webber

Wasps interim Director of Rugby Leon Holden has made four changes to his side for Sunday's clash with Northampton at Franklin's Gardens.

Wasps welcome back Rob Webber for his first start since-mid November.

The vice-captain will add to the leadership on the field and will hope to regain the form he had prior to injury. Webber's inclusion means that Joe Ward moves to the bench.

The back-row remains unchanged from the game against Sale Sharks, with Andy Powell being rested with a view to the volume of games over the next few weeks.

Elsewhere there are also re-calls for prop Zak Taulafo, and centre Steve Kefu while lock Simon Shaw returns from a successful international campaign with England in the Six Nations to take his place in the second row alongside captain Richard Birkett.

"The game against Northampton this weekend marks the start of a crucial period for us in the Premiership starting with two away games against Northampton and London Irish before we welcome Leeds to Adams Park and head to Twickenham for our St George's Day Game," said Holden.

"We must take every game on its own merits but a good run of results in this block of fixtures will define our season."

Meanwhile, Northampton Director of rugby Jim Mallinder says Saints win at Leeds a fortnight ago was step in the right direction after a run of poor form.

"It wasn't just a victory, but a much better performance against Leeds," said the Saints boss.

"We got our basics right and dominated up front. We played aggressively and took our opportunities well.

"It was a much needed win and we were pleased to get that under our belts. We had a good week off, hopefully the players have been well rested, and we have had a good week's training too. Hopefully we can take that into the game with Wasps."

Form: The Saints have won their last two matches against Wasps, whilst the Londoners have not won at Franklin's Gardens since a 21-13 victory in the Premiership on 12 November 2005. Northampton Saints ended their unwanted six game losing run in Aviva Premiership Rugby with their 23-13 victory at Leeds in the rearranged round ten match on 12 March. The Saints have lost their last three Premiership home games at Franklin's Gardens Wasps ended a five game losing run in all competitions with victory at home to Sale on 6 March. Wasps have not won away from home since a trip to Dragons in the European Cup on 12 December.

The teams:

Northampton: 15 Ben Foden, 14 Chris Ashton, 13 Jon Clarke, 12 James Downey, 11 Paul Diggin, 10 Stephen Myler, 9 Lee Dickson, 8 Roger Wilson, 7 Tom Wood, 6 Phil Dowson, 5 Christian Day, 4 Courtney Lawes, 3 Brian Mujati, 2 Dylan Hartley (c), 1 Soane Tonga'uiha.
Replacements:16 Brett Sharman, 17 Alex Waller, 18 Tom Mercey, 19 Mark Sorenson, 20 Calum Clark, 21 Stuart Commins, 22 Shane Geraghty, 23 Bruce Reihana.

Wasps: 15 Richard Haughton, 14 Ben Jacobs, 13 Steve Kefu, 12 Riki Flutey, 11 David Lemi, 10 Dave Walder, 9 Joe Simpson, 8 Dan Ward-Smith, 7 Joe Worsley, 6 John Hart, 5 Richard Birkett (capt), 4 Simon Shaw, 3 Zak Taulafo, 2 Rob Webber, 1 Tim Payne.
Replacements: 16 Joe Ward, 17 Ben Broster, 18 Tom French, 19 James Cannon, 20 Serge Betsen, 21 Nic Berry, 22 Dom Waldouck, 23 Mark van Gisbergen.

Date: Sunday, March 27
Kick-off: 13:45
Venue: Franklin's Gardens
Referee: Dean Richards

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Bath vs Harlequins19:45
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Leicester Tigers vs Wasps15:00
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PosTeamPPts
1Northampton830
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3Bath828
4Saracens825
5Leicester Tigers821