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Preview: Northampton v Worcester

14th February 2014 07:47

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Lee Dickson v Worcester

Starting for Saints: Lee Dickson

Northampton Saints have made four changes to their strating XV for Saturday's Premiership clash with Worcester Warriors at Franklin's Gardens.

For the Saints it is an opportunity to consolidate their place at the top of the league table, while Worcester will be looking to build on last Friday's promising performance against Leicester in their fight against relegation.

The Saints extended their winning run to nine matches in all competitions with George Pisi's late try at Sandy Park last Saturday evening, but there are three changes to the team which started against Exeter.

Lee Dickson returns from England duty to partner Stephen Myler at half-back, with Kahn Fotuali'i dropping to the bench. Elsewhere Dom Waldouck and Christian Day have picked up leg injuries which have ruled them out of Saturday's game.

Waldouck is replaced by Tom Stephenson, who has scored two tries in his opening two outings for England U20 in the 2014 Six Nations. Day's absence sees Sam Dickinson move up into the second row, with GJ Van Velze starting at Number eight. Teimana Harrison takes Van Velze's place on the bench.

Meanwhile, Dean Schofield and Leonardo Senatore return to the Warriors starting line-up.

Schofield comes in at lock while Senatore is named at flanker as Director of Rugby Dean Ryan makes just two changes to the side which almost defeated Leicester Tigers last Friday.

The front-row sees Ofa Fainga'anuku, Agustin Creevy and John Andress keep their places whilst the backline also remains unchanged.

Jonny Arr and Ravai Fatiaki, who have both signed new contracts at Warriors today, will start at scrum-half and centre respectively.

The replacements see Chris Brooker, Richard de Carpentier and Dean Hammond all return to the squad.

"The short-term aim for us is to get this group at its best and see if we can compete because we're desperate to fight the challenge of relegation," said Ryan.

"We did a pretty good job against Northampton for 65 minutes when they came to Sixways earlier this season.

"Since then we've proved that as a group we are able to last longer and hopefully we can make things difficult.

"A lot of people did themselves a lot of credit against Leicester last week so they deserve to roll again.

"Saints have huge resources. They've got academy players that step up to Premiership level when players are away on international duty."

Form: Dean Ryan's troops are still searching for their first win of the league season with 13 fixtures now played and head to Franklin's Gardens this Saturday to take on a Saints side that are on fire. The Saints have won their last nine contests in all tournaments and have not been defeated at home in the Premiership since Leicester were the visitors on 20 March 2013. The Warriors meanwhile have lost their last 22 away games in the Premiership equalling Rotherham's all time record from 2000 to 2004 but the stats mean nothing to Wallaby prop Ma'afu ahead of the clash.

The teams:

Northampton: 15 James Wilson, 14 Ken Pisi, 13 George Pisi, 12 Tom Stephenson, 11 Jamie Elliott, 10 Stephen Myler, 9 Lee Dickson, 8 Gj van Velze, 7 Phil Dowson (c), 6 Calum Clark, 5 Sam Dickinson, 4 Samu Manoa, 3 Salesi Ma'afu, 2 Mike Haywood, 1 Alex Waller.
Replacements: 16 Ross McMillan, 17 Ethan Waller, 18 Gareth Denman, 19 Ben Nutley, 20 Teimana Harrison, 21 Kahn Fotuali'i, 22 Will Hooley, 23 Fa'atoina Auagavaia

Worcester: 15 Chris Pennell, 14 Josh Drauniniu, 13 Alex Grove, 12 Ravai Fatiaki, 11 David Lemi, 10 Paul Warwick, 9 Jonny Arr, 8 Jonathan Thomas (C), 7 Sam Betty, 6 Leonardo Senatore, 5 Mariano Galarza, 4 Dean Schofield, 3 John Andress, 2 Agustin Creevy, 1 Ofa Fainga'anuku.
Replacements: 16 Chris Brooker, 17 George Porter, 18 Rob O'Donnell, 19 James Percival, 20 Richard de Carpentier, 21 Paul Hodgson, 22 Ignacio Mieres, 23 Dean Hammond.

Date: Saturday, February 15
Kick-off: 15:00 GMT
Venue: Franklin's Gardens
Referee: Wayne Barnes
Assistant referees: Nigel Carrick, Andy Watson
Television match official: Trevor Fisher

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