Northampton Saints host playoff hopefuls Sale Sharks in Tuesday night's Premiership action at Franklin's Gardens.
Sale Sharks head into the clash off the back of their Premiership Rugby Cup success where they were crowned Champions after beating Harlequins 27-19. Steve Diamond's side currently sit in fourth place on the log and could reclaim third on Tuesday if Wasps fall to Harlequins in Monday's Premiership action.
Meanwhile, Northampton Saints are out of the running for a place in the Premiership knockouts and Chris Boyd's side head into the match on Tuesday following their Champions Cup exit at the hands of Exeter Chiefs.
Sale Sharks ran out 22-10 victors the last time these two sides' met, which was in December last year. Chris Ashton scored for Sale on the day with South Africans playing a big part with Rohan Janse van Rensburg and Akker van der Merwe both dotting down for the Manchester-based side.
Saints will be hoping to end a frustrating run of home form in their final fixture of the 2019/20 campaign at Franklin’s Gardens, but boast a superb recent record against the Sharks on their own patch – winning ten of the last 11 encounters between the sides at the Gardens.
Director of Rugby Chris Boyd has made three changes to his Northampton Saints side. Alex Mitchell, Sam Matavesi and Shaun Adendorff all come into the starting XV and are the only alterations to the line-up that went down to Exeter Chiefs in last week’s Champions Cup quarter-final.
Flanker Lewis Ludlam will lead out the men in Black, Green and Gold with No.8 Adendorff bringing some ballast to the back row alongside England international Courtney Lawes. David Ribbans and Api Ratuniyarawa continue their partnership in the engine room with 19-year-old loosehead, Manny Iyogun, continuing in the front row after a breakthrough performance against Exeter – with Fiji international Matavesi and World Cup winning All Black Owen Franks completing the pack.
Dan Biggar will hope to pull the strings from stand-off for Saints with Mitchell inside of him at scrum-half, meanwhile Rory Hutchinson and Fraser Dingwall are selected again in Northampton’s midfield. The back three is also unchanged from the European clash at Chiefs, with Ahsee Tuala and Matt Proctor on the wings and George Furbank lining up at fullback.
The hosts’ replacements are packed with international pedigree as the likes of Nick Isiekwe, Teimana Harrison, and Taqele Naiyaravoro will all hope to make an impact from the bench.
Sale Sharks have made four changes to the matchday squad that was crowned Premiership Rugby Cup Champions on Monday evening.
Loose head prop Ross Harrison makes a timely return to action for Sale this week after straining his ankle during match-day preparations in round 17. The club stalwart is joined in the front row by in-form hooker Curtis Langdon and Springbok Coenie Oosthuizen who both started for the Sharks in Monday’s cup final.
Keeping the victorious second row pairing from Monday, the imposing Jean-Luc du Preez continues to impress and is joined in the second row by fellow countryman Cobus Wiese, who made his full club debut in the Premiership Rugby Cup Final.
Captain Jono Ross resumes his usual role at blindside flanker and adds to a star-studded back-row including Tom Curry at openside and Daniel du Preez at number 8.
After a man of the match performance last week, Robert du Preez secures the number ten shirt and will have Faf de Klerk distributing inside him at scrum half. Diamond chooses to rotate his centre options once again as the Sharks head to the east-midlands with Manu Tuilagi replacing Rohan Janse van Rensburg in the midfield alongside Sam James.
Janse van Rensburg remains in the in the Sale starting line-up however, as the South African international takes his place on the wing for the Sharks in the first of Diamond’s experimental selections this week. The 18 stone powerhouse is joined in the back three by Simon Hammersley who moves over from full back to the wing for only the second time in his career to accommodate the in-form Luke James in the fifteen shirt.
Internationals Akker van Der Merwe and Valery Morozov join Jake Cooper-Woolley as front row replacements for tomorrow night’s Premiership clash, with James Phillips and Cameron Nield providing further forward cover from the bench. Will Cliff, AJ MacGinty and Marland Yarde will cover the backs for the Sharks’ trip to Franklin’s Gardens.
15 George Furbank
14 Matt Proctor
13 Fraser Dingwall
12 Rory Hutchinson
11 Ahsee Tuala
10 Dan Biggar
9 Alex Mitchell
1 Manny Iyogun
2 Sam Matavesi
3 Owen Franks
4 David Ribbans
5 Api Ratuniyarawa
6 Courtney Lawes
7 Lewis Ludlam (c)
8 Shaun Adendorff
16 James Fish
17 Alex Seville
18 Ehren Painter
19 Nick Isiekwe
20 Teimana Harrison
21 Jamie Gibson
22 Henry Taylor
23 Taqele Naiyaravoro