Hartley returns to skipper Saints at Irish

Dylan Hartley is back in action after a rib injury (picture: Kirsty Edmonds)
Dylan Hartley is back in action after a rib injury (picture: Kirsty Edmonds)
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Dylan Hartley makes his return after more than a month out as he skippers Saints at London Irish on Boxing Day.

The England hooker, who relinquished the captaincy during the summer, will lead the team out for the first time this season.

Hartley has not played for Saints since sustaining concussion in a collision with Billy Vunipola during the defeat to Saracens on November 7.

But he is now fit enough to return and replaces Mike Haywood in the Northampton starting 15.

Ken Pisi, Kahn Fotuali’i, Ethan Waller, Paul Hill, Michael Paterson and Christian Day also come into the team for Saturday’s game.

Kieran Brookes misses out with the knee injury sustained in last week’s 9-9 Champions Cup draw with Racing 92, while Tom Wood (shoulder), Calum Clark (shoulder) and Alex Corbisiero (knee) are all still sidelined.

Gareth Denman and Tom Collins could make their first appearances of the season from the bench.

Meanwhile, London Irish, who have lost all six of their Aviva Premiership games this season, have lock Matt Symons back to captain their side.

Former Saints fly-half Shane Geraghty is among the replacements.

London Irish: Maitland; Lewington, Hearn, Williams, Tikoirotuma; Noakes, McKibbin; Court, Paice, Franks; Symons (c), Rouse, Narraway, Cowan, Treviranus.

Replacements: Stevens, Smallbone, Aulika, Sinclair, Trayfoot, Steele, Geraghty, Mulchrone.

Saints: Foden; K Pisi, G Pisi, Burrell, North; Myler, Fotuali’i; E Waller, Hartley (c), Hill; Paterson, Day; Lawes, Gibson, Harrison.

Replacements: Haywood, A Waller, Denman, Matfield, Dickinson, Dickson, Hanrahan, Collins.