Preview: Northampton v Montpellier

Date published: October 14 2016

Northampton Saints director of rugby Jim Mallinder has made three changes to his starting XV for Saturday's Pool Four Champions Cup opener with Montpellier at Franklin's Gardens.

Mallinder has resisted the temptation to make wholesale changes to his run-on side after last weekend's Premiership defeat to Harlequins. 

In the back-line, there are two changes with Ben Foden replacing Ahsee Tuala at full-back while Harry Mallinder takes over from Luther Burrell at inside centre.

The final change sees France back-row Louis Picamoles starting at number eight with Teimana Harrison dropping down to the replacements bench.

Meanwhile, Montepellier coach Jake White has rung the changes to his starting line-up which beat Castres in the Top 14 last weekend. 

Amongst his backs, Ben Botica shifts from full-back to fly-half, where he replaces Demetri Catrakilis, while Benjamin Fall moves to the back. Fall's place on the left wing is taken by Nemani Nadolo.

In the forwards, there's a new back row with Pierre Spies starting at number eight while Antoine Battut and Jacques Du Plessis are the two flankers. The trio replace Akapusi Qera, Kélian Galletier and Fulgence Ouedraogo respectively with Qera and Ouedraogo listed amongst the replacements.

Du Plessis' place in the second row has been taken by Konstantine Mikautadze. 

Form: This will be the first meeting between the clubs in the Champions Cup, however, they met in the Challenge Cup in 2008/09 with Northampton winning home and away in the pool stage. Saints are winless in their last five games against Top 14 opposition in the Champions Cup (D1, L4), scoring fewer than 12 points in each of those games. Montpellier have lost their last five away games in the tournament, and have lost three of their four away games against Premiership opposition in the competition. Northampton were unbeaten in their three home games last season with just 78 points scored in total across those three matches. Montpellier lifted the Challenge Cup last season and no club kicked more penalties than the winners, averaging 3.1 successful penalty goals per game.

The teams:

Northampton: 15 Ben Foden, 14 Ken Pisi, 13 George Pisi, 12 Harry Mallinder, 11 George North, 10 Steve Myler, 9 Nic Groom, 8 Louis Picamoles, 7 Calum Clark, 6 Tom Wood, 5 Michael Paterson, 4 Courtney Lawes, 3 Kieran Brookes, 2 Mikey Haywood, 1 Alex Waller
Replacements: 16 Charlie Clare, 17 Ethan Waller, 18 Paul Hill, 19 Sam Dickinson, 20 Teimana Harrison, 21 Lee Dickson, 22 Rory Hutchinson, 23 James Wilson

Montpellier: 15 Benjamin Fall, 14 Marvin O'Connor, 13 Alexandre Dumoulin, 12 Frans Steyn, 11 Nemani Nadolo, 10 Ben Botica, 9 Nic White, 8 Pierre Spies, 7 Antoine Battut, 6 Jacques Du Plessis, 5 Paul Willemse, 4 Konstantine Mikautadze, 3 Davit Kubriashvili, 2 Shalva Mamukashvili, 1 Mikheil Nariashvili
Replacements: 16 Romain Ruffenach, 17 Yvan Watremez, 18 Jannie Du Plessis, 19 Fulgence Ouedraogo, 20 Akapusi Qera, 21 Cameron Wright, 22 Vincent Martin, 23 Joffrey Michel

Date: Saturday, October 15
Venue: Franklin's Gardens
Kick-off: 18:30 BST (17:30 GMT)
Referee: Nigel Owens (Wales)
Assistant Referees: Gwyn Morris (Wales), Rhys Thomas (Wales_
TMO: Tim Hayes (Wales)