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Preview: Northampton v Wasps

27th September 2012 12:42

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Tom Wood

Tom Wood: Starts for Saints

Northampton director of rugby Jim Mallinder has named his starting XV for Friday's Aviva Premiership clash with London Wasps at Franklin's Gardens.

The Saints go into the match-up as one of only two teams currently unbeaten in the Premiership.

But, according to Mallinder, London Wasps will be challenging opponents for his team on Friday.

"Wasps have started the season well," he said.

"They have been very competitive in every game and shown their willingness to play as a team for the full 80 minutes.

"They soundly beat London Irish two weeks ago and put over 40 points past Harlequins in Round one as well.

"They have some of the most dangerous runners in the league, experienced playmakers at half-back and a pack which has the ability to produce quality ball.

"They have shown several times what can happen if they are given the chance to play and put 40 points on both Harlequins and London Irish.

"So we know that we will have to be on top form in every minute. We certainly cannot afford a repeat of the last 20 minutes of the game against Worcester, where we nearly threw away all the hard work that had been put in during the first hour.

"That said, in the opening 60 minutes we played some excellent rugby and scored some good tries, and we will be looking to build on that side of our performance tomorrow night."

Meanwhile, Tim Payne will make his 250th appearance for Wasps in this encounter. Payne - who is in his tenth season at Wasps - has won an array of domestic and European titles with the club, and continues to be its first choice loosehead prop.

"Tim has been a tremendous servant to London Wasps and English rugby and he continues to perform at the very highest level for his club," said director of rugby Dai Young.

"He has been an ever-present in the front row since I have been here and is one of the key leaders within the group we have here."

In other changes to the side, wing James Bailey makes his Wasps debut while there are also starts for Chris Bell, Tom Lindsay, Billy Vunipola and Nick Robinson while Joe Launchbury comes into the back-row in place of Jonathan Poff, who has picked up a knock.

Sam Jones is in line to make his first appearance this season with a place on the replacements bench.

Ashley Johnson is unavailable this weekend for family reasons, while Stephen Jones has not recovered in time from a stomach illness which has forced him to miss training this week, so his place on the bench is taken by Lee Thomas.

Form: Northampton Saints have really hit the ground running in Aviva Premiership Rugby this season with a perfect played four, won four record. The Saints have now won their last six regular season matches in the competition. Northampton's solitary home Premiership defeat in the last twelve months was 21-35 to Leicester on 14 April. London Wasps' only victory in their last eight encounters in all competitions was 43-14 over London Irish at Adams Park in round three. The Londoners have not won an away game since they visited Rovigo in the European Challenge Cup on 14 January. Northampton have won their last six fixtures with Wasps in all competitions, whilst Wasps most recent victory at Franklin's Gardens came on 12 November 2005.

The teams:

Northampton: 15 James Wilson, 14 Ken Pisi, 13 Dom Waldouck, 12 Luther Burrell, 11 Vasily Artemyev, 10 Stephen Myler, 9 Lee Dickson, 8 Rhys Oakley, 7 Tom Wood, 6 Courtney Lawes, 5 Christian Day, 4 Samu Manoa, 3 Paul Doran Jones, 2 Dylan Hartley (capt), 1 Soane Tonga'uiha.
Replacements: 16 Mike Haywood, 17 Alex Waller, 18 Brian Mujati, 19 Mark Sorenson, 20 Phil Dowson, 21 Martin Roberts, 22 Ryan Lamb, 23 Tom May.

Wasps: 15 Tommy Bell, 14 Christian Wade, 13 Andrea Masi, 12 Chris Bell, 11 James Bailey, 10 Nick Robinson, 9 Joe Simpson, 8 Billy Vunipola, 7 James Haskell, 6 Joe Launchbury, 4 Tom Palmer, 4 Marco Wentzel (c), 3 Zak Taulafo, 2 Tom Lindsay, 1 Tim Payne.
Replacements: 16 T Rhys Thomas, 17 Simon McIntyre, 18 Fabio Staibano, 19 Sam Jones, 20 James Cannon, 21 Charlie Davies, 22 Lee Thomas, 23 Elliot Daly.

Date: Friday, September 28
Kick-off: 19:45 BST
Venue: Franklin's Gardens
Referee: David Pearson
Assistant referees: Robin Goodliffe, Paul Dix
Television match official: Trevor Fisher

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PosTeamPPts
1Northampton625
2Saracens622
3Exeter620
4Bath620
5Wasps615