Bears looking to solidify position against youthful Saints

Date published: September 7 2020

Bristol Bears will go in search of back-to-back Premiership victories when Northampton Saints visit Ashton Gate in Round 19 on Tuesday.

Director of rugby Pat Lam makes eight changes from the side that earned a bonus-point win victory over Worcester Warriors at Sixways.

Piers O’Conor and Alapati Leiua come into the back three, while Andy Uren is also selected in the backline. Siale Piutau is handed the captaincy for the home clash and is selected to start, subject to the outcome of Monday’s online independent disciplinary panel.

In the pack, Jake Woolmore and Harry Thacker are named in the front-row, while Dave Attwood and Joe Joyce come into the second-row. Chris Vui switches to blindside flanker, while Ben Earl returns to the starting line-up.

Chris Cook is listed among the replacements and could make his Bristol Bears debut if called upon.

Meanwhile, Northampton Saints director of rugby Chris Boyd has named a matchday squad full of youth for Tuesday’s visit to the West Country.

The men in Black, Green and Gold have won four of their last six away matches in all tournaments, and have been victorious on their last two visits to Ashton Gate – but will face a stern test against Lam’s in-form outfit.

Piers Francis and Fraser Dingwall line up together again in Saints’ midfield, with Taqele Naiyaravoro and Ryan Olowofela on the wings and 19-year-old full-back Tommy Freeman completing the back three.

Scrum-half Tom James – signed this summer from Doncaster Knights – will start for Northampton for the first time and will hope to pull the strings alongside James Grayson, who wears the 10 jersey.

A homegrown front-row sees props Danny Hobbs-Awoyemi and Ehren Painter pack down alongside Mikey Haywood.

Alex Moon and Nick Isiekwe are selected in the second-row with flanker Lewis Ludlam leading out the side in Bristol as captain – the England international is joined in the back-row by Jamie Gibson and Shaun Adendorff.

A young bench sees wing Josh Gillespie primed for his league debut if he enters the action, with Senior Academy prospects Karl Garside, Tui Uru, and Reuben Bird-Tulloch also hoping to grasp an opportunity with both hands should they come on.

Form: Bristol Bears’ record since the return of Gallagher Premiership Rugby is won three lost two, with their defeat to Exeter Chiefs in their most recent game at Ashton Gate ending a five-game winning run at the venue in all competitions. Northampton Saints’ only victory since the return was 27-3 at London Irish in round 15. The Saints have won four of their last six away games in all tournaments. Bristol have won their last two matches against Northampton but have not achieved a Premiership Rugby season’s double over the East Midlanders since 2006-07. Northampton have been victorious on both of their two previous visits to Ashton Gate.

The teams:

Bristol Bears: 15 Charles Piutau, 14 Piers O’Conor, 13 Semi Radradra, 12 Siale Piutau (c), 11 Alapati Leiua, 10 Callum Sheedy, 9 Andy Uren, 8 Nathan Hughes, 7 Ben Earl, 6 Chris Vui, 5 Joe Joyce, 4 Dave Attwood, 3 Kyle Sinckler, 2 Harry Thacker, 1 Jake Woolmore
Replacements: 16 Will Capon, 17 Yann Thomas, 18 Peter McCabe, 19 Steven Luatua, 20 Dan Thomas, 21 Chris Cook, 22 Max Malins, 23 Luke Morahan

Northampton Saints: 15 Tommy Freeman, 14 Ryan Olowofela, 13 Fraser Dingwall, 12 Piers Francis, 11 Taqele Naiyaravoro, 10 James Grayson, 9 Tom James, 8 Shaun Adendorff, 7 Lewis Ludlam (c), 6 Jamie Gibson, 5 Nick Isiekwe, 4 Alex Moon, 3 Ehren Painter, 2 Mikey Haywood, 1 Danny Hobbs-Awoyemi
Replacements: 16 Reece Marshall, 17 Nick Auterac, 18 Karl Garside, 19 Lewis Bean, 20 Tui Uru, 21 Henry Taylor, 22 Reuben Bird-Tulloch, 23 Josh Gillespie

Venue: Ashton Gate
Kick-off: 19:45
Referee: Tom Foley
Assistant Referees: Jack Makepeace, Simon McConnell
TMO: Wayne Barnes