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Preview: Wasps v Northampton

20th December 2013 11:42

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Positional switch: Samu Manoa

Northampton Saints have made three changes to the side that toppled Leinster to take on London Wasps at Adams Park on Saturday.

The Saints head to Wasps in the first of three tough festive Premiership matches that will test their top four credentials to the full.

Director of Rugby Jim Mallinder and the coaches have made three straight swaps between the bench and the starting 15, with Kahn Fotuali'i, Mike Haywood and Sam Dickinson coming in for Lee Dickson, Dylan Hartley and Courtney Lawes respectively.

Dickinson's introduction sees Samu Manoa move up to the second-row, and with Hartley on the bench it falls to Tom Wood to captain the side.

Meanwhile, Ashley Johnson returns to London Wasps' starting lineup for this weekend's game after three weeks on the sidelines.

He is joined in the back-row by Sam Jones at number eight and James Haskell on the openside. In front of them is the familiar pairing of Tom Palmer and Joe Launchbury while the front row is made up of Matt Mullan, Carlo Festuccia and Jake Cooper-Woolley.

In the backs Charlie Davies and Andy Goode return to fitness and start at nine and ten respectively, while Charlie Hayter and Chris Bell partner in midfield.

The back three sees Tom Varndell start in his second game since returning from injury, with Will Helu on the other wing and Elliot Daly at full-back.

"We are going into the weekend's game on the back of three good wins but the game on Saturday will provide us another challenge," said Director of Rugby Dai Young.

"Northampton are probably the in-form side in the Premiership and we know where they will be strong. We have to match that head on and be very clinical in everything we do. We are striving for consistency and that is what we need this weekend."

Form: London Wasps have won their last three matches in all tournaments since their 5-28 home reversal to Bath in Aviva Premiership Rugby on November 24. The Londoners have won just two of their last six Premiership home games played at Adams Park - against Worcester and Leicester. Northampton Saints have lost just one of their last nine fixtures in all tournaments: 7-40 at home to Leinster in the Heineken Cup on December 7. The Saints' only away defeat in the Premiership this season came at Gloucester, 24-26, in Round Three. Northampton have won their last eight fixtures against their hosts since Wasps were last victorious 20-15 at Adams Park in the Premiership on October 4 2009.

The teams:

Wasps: 15 Elliot Daly, 14 Will Helu, 13 Chris Bell (c), 12 Charlie Hayter, 11 Tom Varndell, 10 Andy Goode, 9 Charlie Davies, 8 Sam Jones, 7 James Haskell, 6 Ashley Johnson, 5 Joe Launchbury, 4 Tom Palmer, 3 Jake Cooper-Woolley, 2 Carlo Festuccia, 1 Matt Mullan
Replacements: 16 Tom Lindsay, 17 Taione Vea, 18 Phil Swainston, 19 James Cannon, 20 Guy Thompson, 21 Joe Simpson, 22 Joe Carlisle, 23 Andrew Suniula

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

Date: Saturday, December 21
Kick-off: 15:00 GMT
Venue: Adams Park
Referee: Matthew Carley
Assistant referees: Ashley Rowden, Peter Huckle
Television match official: David Sainsbury

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