Preview: Northampton v Wasps

Date published: March 26 2015

Northampton welcome back international stars Dylan Hartley, George North and Courtney Lawes for Friday's game against Wasps.

The end of the Six Nations sees the return of several of the club’s internationals, who will line up in a starting 15 that shows a number of changes to that which ran out against Saracens a fortnight ago.  

Tom Wood is also back at blindside flanker while Jon Fisher wins a place on the bench.

Meanwhile, Matt Mullan again leads the Wasps side, with club captain James Haskell rested after starting England’s five games in the Six Nations.
Alex Lozowski starts at fly-half after impressing in training and during appearances from the bench, while Glyn Hughes joins the replacements with Andy Goode carrying an ankle injury. Otherwise the backline is unchanged from the side who played Saracens in Wasps’ last game three weeks ago.
Up front, Edd Shervington returns from a shoulder injury to start at hooker, with Ashley Johnson again providing cover.
Lorenzo Cittadini returns from Italian camp to complete the front row, with James Cannon and Kearnan Myall packing down behind him in the second row. The back-row remains unchanged from Wasps last three games.
Wasps’ Director of Rugby Dai Young said: “The fortnight without a game has been an opportunity for players to re-charge their batteries, both physically and mentally, before returning for fitness tests and later for rugby specific drills building towards this Northampton game.
“James Haskell has been given a few days off having started every game for England. We’re really proud of what he’s achieved, but with a Friday game it doesn’t really give you enough time to integrate him back into what we’re doing, having been away since just after Christmas. James deserves some time off and hopefully by giving him a break for this one match, he’ll be able to give even more for the remaining four or five games of the season.
“It’s plain to see Northampton’s strengths so we know what we’re up against this week. They’ve got a very strong forward pack and have done for a number of years. Their scrum is up there with the best in Europe and they’ve scored more driving line-out tries than any other team in the Premiership this season. They’ve also got a fantastic kicker in Stephen Myler and they score a lot of tries, so they’re deservedly top of the table. They were champions last season and they’re out in front this season, so they’re the team for all of us to chase.
“We know what’s coming and you’ve got to match it with real physicality and get your set piece right and play some quality rugby. You’re not going to beat Northampton by sitting back and hoping they make mistakes that you can capitalise on. You’ve really got to take the game to them.
“Top six has always been our target and I expect it will go right down to the wire. Every game is massive for us from now until the end of the season, whether you’re playing Northampton, Exeter, Leicester, London Irish or London Welsh. Every point lost could be really costly, every point gained can make a difference. We’re confident we can get to top six, but we can’t afford any slip-ups.”

Form: With just one defeat in the last ten rounds of Aviva Premiership Rugby, Jim Mallinder's side have opened a gap on the chasing pack and hold a nine-point lead over nearest rivals Exeter Chiefs. Wasps secured an impressive 20-16 triumph over Saints in the reverse fixture in September. The visitors are heading to Northampton in search of their first league double over Saints for a decade, with Wasps' last triumph at Franklin's Gardens coming in November 2005.

The teams:

Northampton: 15 James Wilson, 14 Ken Pisi, 13 George Pisi, 12 Tom Stephenson, 11 George North, 10 Stephen Myler, 9 Lee Dickson, 8 Samu Manoa, 7 Calum Clark, 6 Tom Wood, 5 Christian Day, 4 Courtney Lawes, 3 Salesi Ma'afu, 2 Dylan Hartley (c), 1 Alex Corbisiero
Replacements: 16 Mike Haywood, 17 Alex Waller, 18 Gareth Denman, 19 Sam Dickinson, 20 Jon Fisher, 21 Kahn Fotuali'i, 22 Dom Waldouck, 23 Ah See Tuala

Wasps: 15 Rob Miller, 14 Christian Wade, 13 Elliot Daly, 12 James Downey, 11 Sailosi Tagicakibau, 10 Alex Lozowski, 9 Joe Simpson, 8 Nathan Hughes, 7 Thomas Young, 6 Ashley Johnson, 5 Kearnan Myall, 4 James Cannon, 3 Lorenzo Cittadini, 2 Edd Shervington, 1 Matt Mullan (c)
Replacements: 16 Simon McIntyre, 17 Phil Swainston, 18 James Gaskell, 19 Ed Jackson, 20 Guy Thompson, 21 Piri Weepu, 22 Glyn Hughes, 23 Will Helu

Date: Friday, March 27
Venue: Franklin's Gardens
Kickoff: 19:45 GMT
Referee: Craig Maxwell-Keys
Assistant Referees: Simon McConnell and Nigel Carrick
TMO: Keith Lewis