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Preview: Northampton v Saracens

26th October 2012 10:36

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GJ van Velze Northampton v Exeter AVP 2012

GJ van Velze: Returns for Saints

Northampton boss Jim Mallinder has made three changes to his starting XV for Saturday's Premiership encounter with Saracens at Franklin's Gardens.

The changes are all in the forwards with GJ Van Velze replacing Rhys Oakley at number eight, Mark Sorenson coming in for Samu Manoa at lock and Paul Doran Jones taking over from Brian Mujati at tighthead prop.

Just two points separate the teams in the standings, and with every league point becoming increasingly vital as the domestic campaign enters its middle third the Saints boss says that nothing short of a focused, determined and accurate performance will do.

"Saracens are on a bit of a roll and have shown in recent weeks that they have the ability to win in different ways," explained Mallinder.

"The Aviva Premiership is very tight this season and every point will matter in the chase for the semi-finals.

"So we know that we will have to be on top form in every area of our game if we are to get the win that we want.

"Last week in Toulouse we were guilty of not making the most of our opportunities when they came along.

"We have had plenty to work on in training this week and every player has been focused on making sure that we get things right tomorrow."

Meanwhile, Saracens are on a high after their 30-13 win over Racing Metro in a historic Heineken Cup clash in Brussels last weekend.

New England call-up Mako Vunipola starts the game in the front row while Owen Farrell, Brad Barritt, Chris Ashton and Alex Goode are also in the starting line-up with Mouritz Botha named on the bench.

Wing David Strettle also returns to the run-on side as does Joel Tomkins with Alistair Hargreaves given the nod alongside captain Steve Borthwick in the second row.

With Rhys Gill ruled out with a rib injury, academy prop Nick Auterac is named on the bench with Ernst Joubert also returning to the matchday 23 after missing the Heineken Cup wins over Edinburgh and Racing through injury.

Form: Northampton Saints continue to top the Aviva Premiership table despite their 17-39 loss to 11th placed London Irish at Madejski Stadium in round six. The Saints have won their last five games in all competitions at Franklin's Gardens. Saracens' single defeat in any tournament this season remains to Exeter at Sandy Park on 23 September, whilst they have won their three away encounters since then. Northampton have beaten Saracens just once in their last seven Premiership fixtures: 30-8 in this equivalent game at Franklin's Gardens last November.

Rugby Union betting odds

The teams:

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

Saracens: 15 Alex Goode, 14 Chris Ashton, 13 Joel Tomkins, 12 Brad Barritt, 11 David Strettle, 10 Owen Farrell, 9 Neil de Kock, 8 Jackson Wray, 7 Will Fraser, 6 Kelly Brown, 5 Alistair Hargreaves, 4 Steve Borthwick (c), 3 Matt Stevens, 2 Schalk Brits, 1 Mako Vunipola.
Replacements: 16 John Smit, 17 Nick Auterac, 18 Carlos Nieto, 19 Mouritz Botha, 20 Ernst Joubert, 21 Richard Wigglesworth, 22 Charlie Hodgson, 23 Chris Wyles.

Date: Saturday, October 27
Kick-off: 15:00 BST
Venue: Franklin's Gardens
Referee: Andrew Small
Assistant referees: Paul Burton, Alan Hughes
Television match official: David John Hudson
Timekeeper: Nigel Yates
Coach: Clive Leeke

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