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Preview: Northampton v Saracens

25th October 2013 12:01

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Northampton v Saracens action 2012

Top of the table clash: Saints v Sarries

Saracens boss Mark McCall has made several changes to his starting XV for Saturday's clash with Northampton at Franklin's Gardens.

Loosehead prop Richard Barrington is set to make his full debut in the front row, with Mako Vunipola away on international duty and Rhys Gill ruled out until the New Year with a shoulder injury.

Kelly Brown comes in for Billy Vunipola to wear the six jersey, alongside Ernst Joubert and Jacques Burger in the back-row.

In the backs, Nils Mordt starts his first game of the season at fly-half, partnering Richard Wigglesworth in the halves. Duncan Taylor and Chris Wyles continue in the centres with Fijian international Michael Tagicakibau replacing Chris Ashton on the wing.

Nick Auterac, Mouritz Botha, Jackson Wray and Ben Ransom come into the match day squad as replacements, whilst Argentine international Marcelo Bosch could make his Premiership debut for the club off the bench.

Meanwhile, Phil Dowson will wear the captain's armband when he leads Northampton in this battle of the Premiership table's top two sides.

The team shows five changes from that which beat the Ospreys last weekend, with Kahn Fotuali'i making his first start on home soil and Mike Haywood, Ken Pisi, Calum Clark and Sam Dickinson all coming into the starting line-up.

Meanwhile flanker Ben Nutley, scrum-half Ryan Glynn and centre Dom Waldouck could all see their first senior action of the Aviva Premiership campaign after having been named on the bench.

Form: Northampton Saints have won their last four games at Franklin's Gardens in all competitions since Leicester Tigers won there in March. The Saints have lost just one Aviva Premiership Rugby game this season: 24-26 at Gloucester in Round 3. Saracens' nail biting 16-17 loss to Toulouse at Wembley on Saturday was their first defeat since last season's Premiership semi-final, against Northampton. Sarries have lost only once away from home in the Premiership since early February: 23-28 at Gloucester in April. The Saints' victory at Allianz Park in May ended a three game losing run to Saracens, including a 16-6 victory on their most recent visit to Franklin's Gardens a day short of 12 months ago.

The teams:

Northampton Saints: 15 Ben Foden, 14 Ken Pisi, 13 George Pisi, 12 Luther Burrell, 11 Jamie Elliott, 10 Stephen Myler, 9 Kahn Fotuali'i, 8 Sam Dickinson, 7 Phil Dowson (c), 6 Calum Clark, 5 Christian Day, 4 Samu Manoa, 3 Salesi Ma'afu, 2 Mike Haywood, 1 Alex Waller.
Replacements: 16 Ross McMillan, 17 Ethan Waller, 18 Gareth Denman, 19 GJ van Velze, 20 Ben Nutley, 21 Ryan Glynn, 22 Dom Waldouck, 23 James Wilson.

Saracens: 15 Alex Goode, 14 Michael Tagicakibau, 13 Chris Wyles, 12 Duncan Taylor, 11 David Strettle; 10 Nils Mordt, 9 Richard Wigglesworth, 8 Ernst Joubert, 7 Jacques Burger, 6 Kelly Brown, 5 Alastair Hargreaves, 4 Steve Borthwick (c), 3 Matt Stevens, 2 Schalk Brits, 1 Richard Barrington.
Replacements:16 Jamie George, 17 Nick Auterac, 18 James Johnston, 19 Mourtiz Botha, 20 Jackson Wray, 21 Neil de Kock, 22 Marcelo Bosch, 23 Ben Ransom

Date: Saturday, October 26
Venue: Franklin's Gardens
Kick-off: 15:15 (14:15 GMT)
Referee: Tim Wigglesworth
Assistant referees: Gareth Copsey, Nigel Carrick
TMO: David Grashoff

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Aviva Premiership Table
PosTeamPPts
1Saracens1976
2Northampton1966
3Leicester Tigers1963
4Bath1959
5Harlequins1954