Preview: Northampton Saints v Sale Sharks

Date published: December 22 2016

Northampton prop Alex Waller will make his 200th first team appearance for the Saints when they host Sale at Franklin’s Gardens on Friday.

The achievement will be made all the more remarkable given that he has played in well over 100 consecutive Premiership matches and is still a relatively young 26 years of age.

At the other end of the appearance scale is Juan Pablo Estelles, who makes his Premiership debut on the left wing. The Argentine scored twice for the Wanderers in Monday’s ‘A’ League win over Leicester.

Other players to come into the starting line-up include Louis Picamoles, Christian Day, Courtney Lawes and club captain Tom Wood.

George North has both trained with the squad and undergone a specialist review this week. All parties have agreed that North continue with a full training schedule with the rest of the club’s players to ensure he is fully prepared for first team action.

Meanwhile, Sale Sharks boss Steve Diamond has opted to make one change from his starting XV which lost to Saracens in the Champions Cup last weekend, with Mike Phillips taking the place of James Mitchell at scrum-half. 

Josh Beaumont returns to the matchday 23, and takes his place on the bench, and Kieran Longbottom features in the squad for the first time since 1st October.

Speaking ahead of the fixture, Diamond said: "We've come back to Carrington with a good attitude, and trained well this week, and we're looking forward to the game against Northampton.

"You've got two teams coming together with no form on Friday night, so whoever turns up and plays well will win the game."

Form: Northampton Saints have lost their last four matches in all competitions since beating Worcester 18-17 at Sixways in the Premiership on 18 November. Saints have scored only 14 tries in the competition so far, the lowest tally in the league. Sale Sharks have slipped to six straight defeats in all tournaments whilst their most recent Premiership victory was 31-13 at Bristol in Round 7 – this is the Sharks' solitary victory away from home in any tournament this season. The last seven meetings between the two clubs in the Premiership have all been fairly comfortable home victories, with the only losing bonus point in that sequence grabbed by the Saints at Salford last November. Sale have not won at Franklin’s Gardens since May 2006. 

The teams:

Northampton Saints: 15 Ben Foden, 14 Ken Pisi, 13 Luther Burrell, 12 JJ Hanrahan, 11 Juan Pablo Estelles, 10 Stephen Myler, 9 Nic Groom, 8 Louis Picamoles, 7 Teimana Harrison, 6 Tom Wood (c), 5 Christian Day, 4 Courtney Lawes, 3 Kieran Brookes, 2 Mikey Haywood, 1 Alex Waller 
Replacements: 16 Charlie Clare, 17 Ethan Waller, 18 Paul Hill, 19 Api Ratuniyarawa, 20 Jamie Gibson, 21 Tom Kessell, 22 James Wilson, 23 Nafi Tuitavake

Sale Sharks: 15 Mike Haley, 14 Denny Solomona, 13 Sam James, 12 Johnny Leota, 11 Josh Charnley, 10 AJ MacGinty, 9 Mike Phillips, 8 TJ Ioane, 7 Magnus Lund (c), 6 Cameron Neild, 5 Andrei Ostrikov, 4 Bryn Evans, 3 Halani Aulika, 2 Rob Webber, 1 Ross Harrison 
Replacements: 16 Neil Briggs, 17 James Flynn, 18 Kieran Longbottom, 19 Josh Beaumont, 20 Jonathan Mills, 21 David Seymour, 22 James Mitchell, 23 Tom Arscott

Date: Friday, December 23
Venue: Franklin's Gardens
Kick-off: 19:45 GMT
Referee: Greg Garner
Assistant Referees: Ian Tempest, Gareth Copsey
TMO: Rowan Kitt