Preview: Northampton v Gloucester

Date published: November 26 2015

Springbok lock Victor Matfield is set to make his debut for Northampton Saints against Gloucester at Franklin's Gardens on Friday.

Matfield has been named on the bench as Saints boss Jim Mallinder has made just the one change to the starting line-up from that which began last weekend’s win at Glasgow in the Champions Cup.

Kahn Fotuali’i swaps places with Lee Dickson at scrum-half, with Tom Wood leading the team out. Ken Pisi has also returned to the matchday 23.

Meanwhile, England wing Jonny May is back on the left wing for ffter missing out on Gloucester's two recent European fixtures, while Mariano Galarza is named in the matchday squad for the first time this season.

May features in a backs division that has three new faces from the unit that started at La Rochelle a week ago. Rob Cook comes in at full-back and Willi Heinz rotates with Greig Laidlaw at scrum-half.

The pack, however, is exactly the same as the one that started the game at Stade Marcel DeFlandre. In the replacements, hooker Darren Dawidiuk is set for his first Premiership action of the season having overcome a calf injury and Mariano Galarza returns from suspension.

Gloucester's trip to Franklin's Gardens sees them return to the scene of their very first competitive game under David Humphreys and Laurie Fisher last season, but the Director of Rugby told the local media this week that a lot has changed since then.

"You can easily try and use that as a marker," said Humphreys.

"But I've no doubt that as a team, whether from a coaching or playing perspective, we're very different to where we were 12 months ago.

"It's hard to make any comparison in terms of where we are now to where we were then. We've put in a huge amount of hard work and we're a much better team.

"That hasn't always been reflected in our performances, we're still searching for the consistency that we need but we're happy with where we are and looking forward to the challenge of going to Northampton, a tough place to play but a great place to play.”

Form: Northampton Saints’ only victory in their last six Aviva Premiership Rugby matches was against Newcastle at Milton Keynes, October 24. The Saints have lost their last two Premiership Rugby encounters at Franklin’s Gardens (both to Saracens) but have not lost three in a row at the venue in the tournament since 2011. Gloucester’s only defeat in their last four matches in all tournaments was to Wasps at Coventry in Round 4 of Aviva Premiership Rugby. Gloucester have won two of their last three away games in all tournaments. Gloucester have not beaten Northampton since a 26-24 victory at Kingsholm in Premiership Rugby in September 2013 whilst their only victory at Franklin’s Gardens since 2011 was 27-11 in Premiership Rugby in February 2013.

The teams:

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

Gloucester: 15 Rob Cook, 14 Charlie Sharples, 13 Bill Meakes, 12 James Hook, 11 Jonny May, 10 Billy Twelvetrees (c), 9 Willi Heinz, 8 Ben Morgan, 7 Matt Kvesic, 6 Ross Moriarty, 5 Jeremy Thrush, 4 Tom Savage, 3 John Afoa, 2 Richard Hibbard, 1 Paddy McAllister.
Replacements: 17 Darren Dawidiuk, 17 Yann Thomas, 18 Paul Doran-Jones, 19 Mariano Galarza, 20 Sione Kalamafoni, 21 Greig Laidlaw, 22 Henry Purdy, 23 Jacob Rowan

Date: Friday, November 27
Venue: Franklin's Gardens
Kick-off: 19:45 GMT
Referee: Greg Garner
Assistant referees: Paul Dix and Ashley Rowden
TMO: David Sainsbury