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Preview: Saracens v Northampton

28th December 2012 11:41

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Jim Mallinder Dragons

Jim Mallinder: Point to prove

Northampton start the second half of the Aviva Premiership campaign with a trip to stadiumMK where the face Saracens on Sunday.

Director of rugby Jim Mallinder says that there is the desire, ability and belief within the Saints squad to get a win over Sarries.

The Saints are still within touching distance of the league's top four, and Mallinder says that the team has a point to prove in Milton Keynes.

"Things didn't go quite our way against Harlequins so everyone has been focused and determined in training this week," he commented.

"We certainly have a point to prove against Saracens, and we have the belief in the players' ability and desire to get a result in Milton Keynes.

"Saracens are one of the top teams in Europe, but we know that when we play at our best we are a match for anyone. So nothing less than a top performance will do as we look to end 2012 in a positive way."

Meanwhile, Ernst Joubert returns to captain Saracens with Brad Barritt, John Smit and Neil de Kock also coming into the starting side for the match against the Saints.

With club captain Steve Borthwick rested for this match, Joubert will lead the side while on the bench, hooker Schalk Brits is set to make his 100th appearance for the club.

Jono Ross and Carlos Nieto also come into the matchday 23.

Andy Saull misses the game after suffering a fracture-dislocation of his thumb against Bath while Alex Goode also misses out with a shoulder injury.

Jackson Wray, Alistair Hargreaves, Joe Maddock, Adam Powell, Jacques Burger and Justin Melck also miss the match through injury

Form: Saracens are the best team in Aviva Premiership Rugby on current form, having secured 20 league points from their last six matches. Sarries make stadium:mk the sixth different home venue for their matches this season, and won on their only previous visit to the venue: 25-20 against Bristol on 10 May 2008. Northampton Saints play their first away game at Milton Keynes after appearing there in three home matches in the Heineken Cup in the past (winning two and losing one). The Saints won their most recent away fixture in Aviva Premiership Rugby: 27-16 at Sale on 30 November. Saracens have won their last two encounters with the Saints including a 16-6 victory at Franklin's Gardens on 27 October.

The teams:

Saracens: 15 Chris Wyles, 14 Chris Ashton, 13 Joel Tomkins, 12 Brad Barritt, 11 David Strettle, 10 Charlie Hodgson, 9 Neil de Kock, 8 Ernst Joubert (c), 7 Will Fraser, 6 Kelly Brown, 5 Mouritz Botha, 4 George Kruis, 3 Matt Stevens, 2 John Smit, 1 Mako Vunipola.
Replacements: 16 Schalk Brits, 17 Rhys Gill, 18 Carlos Nieto, 19 Eoin Sheriff, 20 Jono Ross, 21 Richard Wigglesworth, 22 Owen Farrell, 23 James Short.

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

Date: Sunday, December 30
Venue: stadiumMK
Kick-off: 14:15 GMT
Referee: JP Doyle
Assistant referees: Ashley Rowden, Stuart Terheege
Television match official: Graham Hughes

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