North, Corbisiero and Dickinson handed Saints debuts in Exeter clash

STARTING CHANCE - Sam Dickinson will make his Saints debut against Exeter on Saturday (picture by Sharon Lucey)
STARTING CHANCE - Sam Dickinson will make his Saints debut against Exeter on Saturday (picture by Sharon Lucey)

George North, Alex Corbisiero and Sam Dickinson will make their Saints debuts in the Aviva Premiership opening-day clash with Exeter Chiefs at Franklin’s Gardens on Saturday (3pm kick-off).

British & Irish Lions heroes North and Corbisiero moved to Northampton from Scarlets and London Irish respectively this summer.

But Dicksinson’s debut has been much longer in the making, as he has not played a competitive first-team game since joining Saints from Rotherham in the summer of 2012.

A broken arm sustained while playing for the Titans ensured the 28-year-old was unable to play a single minute for his new club last season, though he did spend time at Championship side Moseley.

But after impressing during Saints’ pre-season campaign, playing in all four games, the big No.8 has been handed a chance to shine by director of rugby Jim Mallinder.

“Sam had a frustrating first year with us, so I’m very happy that he’s now in a position where he is ready to play for the first team,” Mallinder said.

“He is a talented and committed player who has shown his qualities during the pre-season, and he’s very keen to take that forward in the Aviva Premiership.

“There’s been a lot of competition for places for tomorrow’s game, and there were plenty of disappointed players when the team was announced.

“So it’s important that the 23 who we’ve selected show why they deserve their place in the match-day squad and put in a good performance against Exeter.”

Captain Dylan Hartley will start the game after his 11-week ban for the red card he received in the Premiership final defeat to Leicester in May came to an end.

Scrum-half Kahn Fotuali’i and tighthead prop Gareth Denman could make their Saints debuts after being named among the replacements.

Saints team to play Exeter: Foden; K Pisi, G Pisi, Burrell, North; Myler, L Dickson; Corbisiero, Hartley (c), Mercey; Lawes, Day; Wood, Dowson, Dickinson.

Replacements: Haywood, A Waller, Denman, Manoa, Clark, Fotuali’i, Wilson, Elliott.

Exeter: Dollman; Jess, Whitten, Shoemark, James; Steenson, Thomas; Sturgess, Yeandle, Tui; Mumm (c), Welch; Johnson, Scaysbrook, Ewers.

Replacements: Whitehead, Moon, Rimmer, Hayes, White, Lewis, Slade, Hill.