Preview: Northampton Saints v Saracens

Date published: November 6 2015

Northampton Saints return to a new-look Franklin's Gardens on Saturday afternoon, with the expanded stadium the venue for one of the biggest Aviva Premiership games of the season, against Saracens.

There are four changes from Northamptom team which ran out against Sale in Round 3. Dylan Hartley and Christian Day step up from the bench, with George North and James Craig making their first starts of the season on the wing and in the second row respectively.

Meanwhile, Schalk Brits will make his 150th Saracens appearance against the Saints. The Springbok hooker who was a member of South Africa's Rugby World Cup squad is named alongside Mako Vunipola (loosehead prop) and Petrus Du Plessis (tighthead prop) in the Saracens front row.

Alistair Hargreaves captains the side and he is joined by George Kruis at lock. In the back row Maro Itoje will start at blindside flanker alongside Jacques Burger and Billy Vunipola. Vunipola will be making his first appearance of the 2015/16 season after recovering from a knee injury sustained in England's World Cup campaign.

Richard Wigglesworth and Owen Farrell link up in the halves whilst at centre Brad Barritt starts in the number 12 jersey alongside Duncan Taylor.

In the back three, USA skipper Chris Wyles comes into the side to start on the left wing and will link up with Chris Ashton (right wing) and Alex Goode (full-back).

On the bench, Argentine World Cup pair Juan Figallo and Marcelo Bosch are named as replacements, with the all-time Premiership record point's scorer Charlie Hodgson also included in the matchday 23.

 "Of course we are pleased to be undefeated after three matches, but we do judge ourselves on our performance levels," said Director of rugby, Mark McCall.

"Against London Irish there were aspects which were okay, but there were aspects we could improve on. We have a pretty big game now against Saints, our squad is pretty healthy at the moment and we need to try and rotate in a sensible fashion."

Captain, Alistair Hargreaves added: "Saints' track record speaks for itself. We are under no illusions that Saturday will be incredibly hard to go there and get points. Every time we take the field against them these games are always very physical, we know we're in for a battle this weekend."

Form: Northampton Saints' only victory in their last five Premiership Rugby matches was 42-16 against Newcastle at Milton Keynes in Round Two. Saints have lost just one of their last twelve regular season Premiership Rugby matches at Franklin’s Gardens: 18-24 to Exeter on 14 November 2014. Saracens have won their last six Premiership Rugby encounters since Exeter beat them at Allianz Park on 10 May. Sarries only defeat in their last five away games in the tournament was 20-25 to Northampton at stadiummk in April. Saracens' 29-24 victory over The Saints at Franklin’s Gardens in last season’s semi-final ended a three game winning run by the East Midlanders over the Londoners. Saracens have won on their last two visits to the venue having also beaten Exeter Chiefs there in the Anglo-Welsh Cup final in March.

Paddypower are offering odds of 4/6 for Northampton while Saracens are priced at 13/10

The teams:

Northampton Saints:  15 Ben Foden, 14 Jamie Elliot, 13 George Pisi, 12 Luther Burrell, 11 George North, 10 Stephen Myler, 9 Kahn Fotuali'i, 8 Sam Dickson, 7 Tom Wood (c), 6, Jamie Gibson, 5, Christian Day, 4 James Craig, 3 Kieran Brookes, 2 Dylan Hartley, 1 Alex Waller.
Replacements: 16 Mikey Haywood, 17 Ethan Waller, 18 Paul Hill, 19 Michael Paterson, 20 Teimana Harrison, 21 Lee Dickson, 22 JJ Hanrahan, 23 Ahsee Tuala.

Saracens: 15 Alex Goode, 14 Chris Ashton, 13 Duncan Taylor, 12 Brad Barritt, 11 Chris Wyles, 10 Owen Farrell, 9 Richard Wigglesworth, 8 Billy Vunipola, 7 Jacques Burger, 6 Maro Itoje, 5 Alistair Hargreaves (c), 4 George Kruis, 3 Petrus Du Plessis, 2 Schalk Brits, 1 Mako Vunipola
Replacements: 16 Jamie George, 17 Richard Barrington, 18 Juan Figallo, 19 Michael Rhodes, 20 Kelly Brown, 21 Ben Spencer, 22 Charlie Hodgson, 3 Marcelo Bosch

Date: Saturday, November 7
Venue: Franklin's Gardens
Kick-off: 15:15 GMT
Referee: Luke Pearce
Assistant referees: Peter Allan, Andy Watson
TMO: Trevor Fisher