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Preview: Northampton v Newcastle

28th October 2011 11:32

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chris ashton saints v falcons 2011

Chris Ashton: Key player for the Saints

Northampton return to Aviva Premiership action at home to Newcastle after successive wins in the LV= Cup over Saracens and the Ospreys.

Those results followed a victory over Exeter Chiefs in their last Aviva Premiership match three weeks ago.

Nearly 30 players have featured in the three wins, and director of rugby Jim Mallinder said this week that choosing the 23-man squad for Saturday's game has not been easy.

"Selection has been very difficult this week," he told SaintsTV this week.

"We had a difficult start to the season but we've started slowly to turn it around. We had a good display against Exeter, a good display against Saracens a couple of weeks ago and then we carried that on against the Ospreys.

"With all the lads back from international duty and others back from injury, it's given us some good choices," added Mallinder.

The Saints may have three wins on the trot, but they still lie ninth on the table - just four points ahead of tomorrow's visitors to Franklin's Gardens - and Mallinder added that there is plenty of work to do to move the team up the league.

"We're not happy about where we are and we need to make sure it's all about Saturday and winning against Newcastle. We're ninth in the table and they're twelfth, and we're desperate for wins and for points, he explained.

"Newcastle are going to come down here and give it everything they've got. We know that they've come down here in recent years, given us frights and won here. They've got some good players and we've got to make sure we're at our very best."

Meanwhile, Newcastle have made seven changes for the trip to Northampton.

Head coach Alan Tait has rung the changes in the forward pack with Grant Shiells, Joe Graham and Euan Murray all starting in the front row, while Tim Swinson and Will Welch make their return.

Corne Uys will play at outside centre as he continues to impress club bosses following his recent move from South Africa.

Uys, 30, was rested for last week's outing at London Irish coming on as a second-half replacement in the closing stages of the match.

His return to the heart of the Falcons back-line sees Luke Eves move to the wing to cover for the injured Luke Fielden who is out of action for three months with a shoulder injury.

Kiwi goal-kicking supremo Jimmy Gopperth gets the nod at fly-half with fellow countryman Jeremy Manning moving to full-back.

Ally Hogg will continue to skipper the side as James Hudson serves the last of his four-week ban.

Tait admits he has been encouraged with his side's Anglo-Welsh exploits which included a convincing victory over Cardiff Blues coupled with a decent display at Irish.

"I've learnt a lot in these last couple of weeks especially what some of the other guys can do and that is what the LV= Cup is all about," said the Scot who guided the Falcons to the final of that competition last term.

"You have to look at your squad and give key players a rest or give players who have played a lot of rugby a rest.

"It was important to have a look at some of the other guys, and I said to a lot of them at the start of the season that playing for the Blaydon's and Tynedale's of this world during the season are important for the development of many of the guys - so that when they get the opportunity they are rugby fit.

"I think it's paid off for guys like Glen Townson and in the two Anglo-Welsh games he has done himself proud. Rikki Sheriffe has never looked out of place and Dan Frazier did well when he came on last week."

Form: Northampton have won their last three matches in all competitions, whilst the Saints only defeat at Franklin's Gardens in their last eight encounters was 13-14 to London Irish in the Aviva Premiership on 17 September. Newcastle's last four matches have all been won by the home side on the day. The Falcons' most recent away victory in the Premiership came at Leeds Carnegie on 27 February 2011. Northampton have won their last four games against Newcastle, whilst the Falcons have not been victorious at Franklin's Gardens since a 19-13 win in the Premiership on 28 February 2009.

The teams:

Northampton: 15 Ben Foden, 14 Chris Ashton, 13 Jon Clarke, 12 Tom May, 11 Vasily Artemyev, 10 Ryan Lamb, 9 Lee Dickson, 8 Phil Dowson, 7 Tom Wood, 6 Calum Clark, 5 Courtney Lawes, 4 Samu Manoa 3 Brian Mujati, 2 Dylan Hartley (c), 1 Soane Tonga'uiha.
Replacements: 16 Mike Haywood, 17 Alex Waller, 18 Paul Doran Jones, 19 Mark Sorenson, 20 Roger Wilson, 21 Martin Roberts, 22 Stephen Myler, 23 Scott Armstrong.

Newcastle: 15 Jeremy Manning, 14 Luke Eves, 13 Corne Uys, 12 Jamie Helleur, 11 Rikki Sheriffe, 10 Jimmy Gopperth, 9 Chris Pilgrim, 8 Ally Hogg (c) 7 Will Welch, 6 Mark Wilson, 5 Andrew van der Heijden, 4 Tim Swinson, 3 Euan Murray, 2 Joe Graham, 1 Grant Shiells.
Replacements: 16 Michael Mayhew, 17 Ashley Wells, 18 Dan Frazier, 19 Glen Townson, 20 Redford Pennycook, 21 Jordi Pasqualin, 22 Alex Tait, 23 Greg Goosen

Date: Saturday, October 29
Kick-off: 15:00
Venue: Franklin's Gardens
Referee: JP Doyle

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