Preview: Northampton v Harlequins

Date published: February 26 2015

Northampton Saints boss Jim Mallinder has made just one chsnge to his starting XV for Friday's clash with Harlequins at Franklin's Gardens.

England second-row Courtney Lawes returns to the run-on side for the first time since December's home game against Leicester as a replacement for James Craig.

It is a week of landmarks for the lock forward. Not only did he turn 26 on Monday, but Friday night's game will be his 150th in black, green and gold.

Tom Wood could also be in line for a significant milestone, too, as if the flanker sees action at any point he will become the latest member of the squad to become a club centurion.

Wood's inclusion is also the only change on the bench.

Meanwhile, there are three changes to the Harlequins side that played Exeter Chiefs last weekend. In the backs, Karl Dickson starts in place of Danny Care, who misses out through a calf strain.

Care is expected to return for Quins' clash with London Irish match next weekend.

Harry Sloan, who replaces the concussed Tom Casson, starts at inside centre.

With Nick Easter returning to the England set-up, Netani Talei, who signed with the club until the end of the current season, starts at number eight.

Among the replacements, scrum-half Tito Tebaldi will look to make his first senior appearance for the club.

Form: Northampton Saints have lost just two Aviva Premiership Rugby encounters since Round Two: 18-24 at home to Exeter in Round Seven and 7-20 at Sale in Round 13. Northampton’s only other home defeat in any tournament since last March came when Racing Metro visited Franklin’s Gardens on 24 January. Harlequins have lost their last four matches in all competitions – their worst run since January 2010. Two of those defeats have been in Premiership Rugby, to Wasps and Exeter, they have not lost three in a row in the tournament since October 2012. Northampton have won their last four fixtures against Harlequins in all competitions since 'Quins' 22-19 victory at Twickenham Stoop in Aviva Premiership Rugby on 4 May 2013. Harlequins have not been victorious at Franklin’s Gardens since December 2012.  

The teams:

Northampton: 15 James Wilson, 14 Ken Pisi, 13 George Pisi, 12 Tom Stephenson, 11 Jamie Elliott, 10 Stephen Myler, 9 Lee Dickson (c), 8 Sam Dickinson, 7 Calum Clark, 6 Samu Manoa, 5 Christian Day, 4 Courtney Lawes, 3 Gareth Denman, 2 Mike Hywood, 1 Alex Waller.
Replacements: 16 Matti Williams, 17 Alex Corbisiero, 18 Tom Mercey, 19 Tom Wood, 20 Phil Dowson, 21 Kahn Fotuali'i, 22 Sam Olver, 23 Ahsee Tuala.

Harlequins: 15 Ugo Monye, 14 Marland Yarde, 13 Matt Hopper, 12 Harry Sloan, 11 Charlie Walker, 10 Nick Evans, 9 Karl Dickson,8 Netani Talei, 7 Luke Wallace, 6 Jack Clifford, 5 George Robson (c), 4 Charlie Matthews, 3 Kyle Sinckler, 2 Dave Ward, 1 Mark Lambert.
Replacements: 16 Rob Buchanan, 17 Darryl Marfo, 18 Matt Shields, 19 Sam Twomey, 20 Joe Trayfoot, 21 Tito Tebaldi, 22 Ben Botica, 23 Ollie Lindsay-Hague.

Date: Friday, February 27
Venue: Franklin's Gardens
Kick-off: 19:45 GMT
Referee: Tim Wigglesworth
Assistant Referees: Ian Tempest, Gareth Copsey
TMO: Sean Davey