Planet Rugby

Preview: Northampton v Leeds Carnegie

06th May 2011 11:29

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Shane Geraghty

Given a start: Shane Geraghty

Northampton have announced a slightly weakened team for their Aviva Premiership clash with a desperate Leeds side at Franklin's Gardens.

The Round 22 clash sees Director of Rugby Jim Mallinder determined to avoid a Heineken hangover, which is why he has left in a handful of first-teamers.

Saints may have a place in the 2011 Heineken Cup final, but an Aviva Premiership Rugby play-off spot is far from certain. With Bath snapping at their heels in the chase for fourth place, the Saints need a positive result against Leeds if they are to progress into the post-season.

"It's a massive game for us tomorrow," Mallinder said.

"At the moment we still have things in our own hands, but the only way it will stay like that is if we get a positive result against Leeds.

"The players all know that and it hasn't been difficult to motivate them in training this week. We enjoyed the win over Perpignan, but when we came back to work this week all of the attention was focused on what we need to do to beat Leeds.

"They caused us plenty of problems when we played them at Headingley in March, and we know that they will be fighting for every point themselves. Our recent game at Kingston Park showed how difficult it can be to play a team in that position and we are prepared for a battle right from the first whistle."

Meanwhile, Leeds Carnegie Head Coach Neil Back has made five changes to his starting line up for Saturday's massive game at the Gardens.

Three of the changes come in the forwards with skipper Marco Wentzel ruled out with a calf injury. Kearnan Myall moves from the back-row to the second-row in his final appearance for Leeds before he joins Sale next season. The back-row is shuffled with Rhys Oakley moving to six and Alfie To'oala coming in at number eight.

The other two changes come in the front-row with Mike MacDonald and Juan Gomez starting at props with Gareth Hardy and Phil Swainston moving to the bench.

There are two changes in the back-line with centre Scott Barrow coming in for Lachlan MacKay, who can not play because MacDonald and Gomez are the two overseas players in the line up. Peter Wackett returns on the wing allowing Michael Stephenson to move back to full back in place of Christian Lewis-Pratt, who moves to the bench to face his former club.

Leeds will give a debut to England Sevens international Uche Oduoza on the bench. The former Worcester and Newcastle flyer has been training with Leeds for a number of months and played in the A team win over Northampton last month. He had a knee reconstruction last year which prevented him from joining Leeds Carnegie last summer and instead concentrated on his law degree studies in York however he will get his chance off the bench against the Saints.

Form: The Saints have won their last five clashes against Leeds in all competitions. Leeds' only previous victory at Franklin's Gardens was 24-19 in the quarter-final of the Powergen Cup in January 2005. Northampton Saints reached the Heineken Cup final with a superb semi-final victory over Perpignan at Milton Keynes on Sunday. The Saints only defeat in their last seven matches was 15-27 at Gloucester in the Premiership on 19 April. Northampton require just two league points to guarantee a place in the Aviva Premiership Rugby semi-finals. Leeds Carnegie need to obtain two more league points in this round than Newcastle do if they are to avoid the drop into the Championship, maybe less if Leeds win but the Falcons do not.

The teams:

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

Leeds Carnegie: 15 Michael Stephenson, 14 Lee Blackett, 13 Henry Fa'afili, 12 Scott Barrow, 11 Peter Wackett, 10 Adrian Jarvis, 9 Scott Mathie, 8 Alfie To'oala, 7 Hendre Fourie, 6 Rhys Oakley, 5 Kearnan Myall, 4 Daniel Browne, 3 Juan Gomez, 2 Steve Thompson, 1 Mike MacDonald.
Replacements: 16 Phil Nilsen, 17 Gareth Hardy, 18 Gareth Denman, 19 Phil Swainston, 20 Tom Denton, 21 Dan White, 22 Christian Lewis-Pratt, 23 Uche Oduoza.

Date: Saturday, May 7
Kick-off: 15:00 BST
Venue: Franklin's Gardens
Referee: tbc

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