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Preview: Northampton v Sale Sharks

19th April 2013 09:08

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Brian Mujati Northampton Saints 2012

Brian Mujati: Could be playing his last game at Franklin's Gardens

Northampton boss Jim Mallinder has made two changes to his starting XV for Saturday's clash with Sale at Franklin's Gardens.

Tom May comes in at outside centre in place of George Pisi while GJ van Velze replaces Samu Manoa at number eight in the only alterations to the run-on side that beat London Welsh last weekend.

Barring other results going the Saints' way in the chase for the Aviva Premiership play-offs, Saturday's game will be the last time that Brian Mujati will run out at Franklin's Gardens in the black, green and gold, and he says that it will be a moment that will live long in his memory.

However the tight-head prop, who has racked up over 100 appearances in his time at the club, also says that there is plenty of determination among the players to make sure that the campaign continues well into the post-season.

Meanwhile, Sale Sharks boss Steve Diamond has made several changes to his run-on side. In the back-line, veteran wing Mark Cueto will start at outside centre in place of Johnny Leota, who will wear the number 12 jersey.

Mike Haley replaces former Wallaby Cameron Shepherd at full-back while Tom Brady and Charlie Amesbury takes over from Will Addison and Cueto on the wings and Danny Cipriani starts at fly-half at Nick Macleod's expense.

In the forwards, Richie Vernon starts on the flank in place of Daniel Braid while Tom Holmes, Tommy Taylor and Ross Harrison replace Andrei Ostrikov, Marc Jones and Al Dickinson at lock, hooker and loosehead prop respectively.

Form: Northampton Saints will be all out for a bonus point win which would guarantee them an Aviva Premiership rugby semi-final spot for the fourth year in a row, maybe less should Gloucester not gain maximum points this weekend. The Saints have lost only one of their last half a dozen fixtures in the competition: 8-36 at home to Leicester in round 19. Sale Sharks are unbeaten in their last three Premiership matches since their 10-48 reversal at Leicester on 2nd March. Sale's solitary away victory this season in the Premiership was 26-25 over London Welsh at Kassam Stadium in round 15. The Sharks have beaten the Saints just once in their last eight encounters in all competitions: 29-21 at Edgeley Park in September 2011. Sale have not lowered Northampton's colours at Franklin's Gardens since a 36-34 victory in May 2006.

The teams:

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

Sale Sharks: 15 Mike Haley, 14 Tom Brady, 13 Mark Cueto, 12 Jonny Leota, 11 Charlie Amesbury, 10 Danny Cipriani, 9 Dwayne Peel, 8 James Gaskell, 7 David Seymour (c), 6 Richie Vernon, 5 Tom Holmes, 4 Kearnan Myall, 3 Henry Thomas, 2 Tommy Taylor, 1 Ross Harrison.
Replacements: 16 Marc Jones, 17 James Flynn, 18 Aston Croall, 19 Josh Beaumont, 20 James Doyle, 21 Nathan Fowles, 22 Sam James, 23 Charlie Ingall.

Date: Saturday, April 20
Kick-off: 17:45 BST
Venue: Franklin's Gardens
Referee: Luke Pearce
Assistant referees: Andrew Watson, Kevin Stewart
Television match official: Graham Hughes
Timekeeper: Brian Abrahams

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