Northampton Saints make four changes for Irish trip

BACK AS SKIPPER - Phil Dowson (Picture: Linda Dawson)

BACK AS SKIPPER - Phil Dowson (Picture: Linda Dawson)

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Saints have made four changes for Saturday’s trip to struggling London Irish, with Phil Dowson returning to the starting line-up as skipper.

Dowson replaces Rhys Oakley at No.8, and will skipper the side in the absence of Dylan Hartley who misses the trip to Madejski Stadium after suffering a hairline fracture to his right eye socket in last Friday’s win over Wasps.

Mike Haywood will play in place of Hartley at hooker.

Christian Day is also out with a leg injury, and is replaced by Mark Sorrenson, while the other change sees Brian Mujati come in for Paul Doran-Jones at prop, with the England man dropping to the replacements bench.

The backline for Saints is unchanged, with James Wilson, the scorer of two tries against Wasps, again starting at full-back.

Saints travel to Reading sitting top of the Aviva Premiership pile following five wins out of five, but director of rugby Jim Mallinder says his side will be on their guard against an Irish outfit which has plenty of international talent available and won last time out at home.

“We have had a promising start to our season, but we know that if we lose concentration we will be in danger of losing our record,” said Mallinder.

“London Irish have plenty of danger in all areas of their team and their goal kickers will punish us if we lose our discipline in our own half.

“Last Friday’s game against Wasps was just about our most complete performance of the season, and we will be looking to build on that tomorrow.

“We need to maintain control, impose ourselves and take our chances, and then we will have the result we want.”

Saints team to face London Irish: James Wilson; Ken Pisi, Dom Waldouck, Luther Burrell, Vasily Artemyev; Stephen Myler, Lee Dickson; Soane Tonga’uiha, Mike Haywood, Brian Mujati, Samu Manoa, Mark Sorenson, Courtney Lawes, Tom Wood, Phil Dowson (capt). Replacements: Ross McMillan, Alex Waller, Paul Doran-Jones, Teimana Harrison, Rhys Oakley, Martin Roberts, Ryan Lamb, Tom May