Preview: Northampton v Castres

Date published: January 13 2017

Northampton director of rugby Jim Mallinder has named his team for Saturday's Champions Cup clash with Castres at Franklin's Gardens.

The Saints are looking to make it four wins on the trot in all competitions, and three changes have been made to the starting line-up from the team which began last Saturday's win over Bristol.

Juan Pablo Estelles and Jamie Gibson come in for Jamie Elliott and Louis Picamoles respectively, with Harry Mallinder swapping places with JJ Hanrahan at inside centre.

Unlike Northampton, Castres still have a slim chance of making the knockout stages and subsequently name a strong line-up that includes Rory Kockott, David Smith, Robert Ebersohn and Horacio Agulla in the backline.

Victor Moreaux comes in for Rodrigo Capo Ortega at lock, Damien Tussac replaces Daniel Kotze at tighthead prop while Alexandre Bias and Yannick Caballero are on the flanks ahead of Anthony Jelonch and Mathieu Babillot.

Form: The Saints are out of the quarter-final race after back-to-back defeats to Leinster and their 41-7 Round 2 loss at Stade Pierre Antoine. But they have a shot at redemption this weekend after finally finding some form. Three consecutive victories in the Premiership has seen them rise from 10th to fifth ahead of their European return. But Castres still have a slim hope of qualifying if they can repeat their heroics over Northampton and do the same against Leinster at home a week later. The TOP14 side have proved to be a force to be reckoned with at home after victories over Montpellier and the Saints. But they have struggled on the road, suffering defeats to Leinster and the Challenge Cup holders. They were beaten 22-8 by La Rochelle last time out, while Northampton battled to a 32-26 defeat of Bristol at Franklin's Gardens. And coach Alan Dickens is determined to remain in their fine vein of form.

The teams:

Northampton Saints: 15 Ben Foden, 14 Juan Pablo Estelles, 13 Luther Burrell, 12 Harry Mallinder, 11 George North, 10 Stephen Myler, 9 Nic Groom, 8 Teimana Harrison, 7 Jamie Gibson, 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 James Craig, 20 Ben Nutley, 21 Lee Dickson, 22 JJ Hanrahan, 23 Ahsee Tuala

Castres: 15 Geoffrey Palis, 14 Horacio Agulla, 13 Afusipa Taumoepeau, 12 Robert Ebersohn, 11 David Smith, 10 Julien Dumora, 9 Rory Kockott, 8 Maama Vaipulu, 7 Alexandre Bias, 6 Yannick Caballero, 5 Victor Moreaux, 4 Loic Jacquet, 3 Damien Tussac, 2 Jody Jenneker, 1 Mihaita Lazar
Replacements: 16 Brice Mach, 17 Antoine Tichit, 18 Daniel Kotze, 19 Rodrigo Capo Ortega, 20 Antoine Dupont, 21 Benjamin Urdapilleta, 22 Steve Mafi, 23 Thomas Combezou

Date: Saturday, January 14
Venue: Franklin's Gardens
Kick-off: 13:00 GMT
Referee: Andrew Brace (Ireland)
Assistant Referees: Leo Colgan (Ireland), Paul Haycock (Ireland)
TMO: Olly Hodges (Ireland)