Preview: Northampton v Leicester

Date published: December 19 2014

The Saints line-up that will start against Leicester shows a handful of changes from that which began last weekend’s Champions Cup win over Treviso.

Luther Burrell pairs with Tom Stephenson in the centres, the England man’s return to the 12 shirt seeing Stephenson move outside a position.

Upfront Alex Waller, Christian Day and Samu Manoa all start, swapping places with Ethan Waller, Sam Dickinson and Phil Dowson.

Meanwhile, Tom Croft and Tom Youngs return to the Leicester Tigers starting line-up.

The England international duo were both included among the replacements for last weekend’s European trip to Toulon but have a starting role at Franklin’s Gardens this week.

Graham Kitchener returns to the forward pack as Brad Thorn is ruled out by a calf injury, and Jordan Crane wears the number eight shirt.

Marcos Ayerza makes his 200th appearance for the Tigers, the 90th player to reach that landmark in the club’s 134-year history.

Form: The Tigers visit Franklin’s Gardens – home of the reigning Premiership champions – for the first time since their last-gasp play-off semi-final defeat at the end of last season. The visitors are unbeaten in their last four league encounters. The Tigers are seeking their third away victory in Aviva Premiership Rugby this season, after winning at Exeter Chiefs and London Welsh. Northampton are in imperious form, though, with only one defeat in their last nine outings in all competitions – at home to Exeter last month.

The teams:

Northampton: 15 James Wilson, 14 Ken Pisi, 13 Tom Stephenson, 12 Luther Burrell, 11 George North, 10 Stephen Myler, 9 Kahn Fotuali’i, 8 Samu Manoa, 7 Tom Wood, 6 Calum Clark, 5 Christian Day, 4 Courtney Lawes, 3 Salesi Ma’afu, 2 Dylan Hartley (c), 1 Alex Waller
Replacements: 16 Mike Haywood, 17 Ethan Waller, 18 Gareth Denman, 19 Sam Dickinson, 20 Phil Dowson, 21 Lee Dickson, 22 Jamie Elliott, 23 Ben Foden

Leicester: 15 Mathew Tait, 14 Blaine Scully, 13 Matt Smith, 12 Anthony Allen, 11 Vereniki Goneva, 10 Owen Williams, 9 Ben Youngs (c), 8 Jordan Crane, 7 Julian Salvi, 6 Tom Croft, 5 Geoff Parling, 4 Graham Kitchener, 3 Dan Cole, 2 Tom Youngs, 1 Marcos Ayerza
Replacements: 16 Leonardo Ghiraldini, 17 Fraser Balmain, 18 Michele Rizzo, 19 Sebastian De Chaves, 20 Robert Barbieri, 21 Sam Harrison, 22 Freddie Burns, 23 Miles Benjamin

Date: Saturday, December 20
Kickoff: 15:15 GMT
Venue: Franklin’s Gardens
Referee: JP Doyle
Assistant Referees: Peter Huckle, Tim Wigglesworth
TMO: Sean Davey