Van Velze returns as Northampton Saints make three changes for Saracens clash

STAYING AT FULL-BACK - Stephen Myler (Picture: Linda Dawson)
STAYING AT FULL-BACK - Stephen Myler (Picture: Linda Dawson)

Saints have made three changes ahead of Saturday’s Aviva Premiership showdown with title rivals Saracens at Franklin’s Gardens - all in the pack.

Dropped are Brian Mujati, Samu Manoa and Rhys Oakley, and coming in are Paul Doran Jones, Mark Sorenson and GJ van Velze.

It will be van Velze’s first start since he served his four-week suspension for a tip tackle in the Aviva Premiership win over Exeter on September 9.

The backline stays the same as it was for last weekend’s Heineken Cup defeat to Castres in Toulouse, with Stephen Myler continuing at full-back as James Wilson has failed to recover from his injury.

It is a huge game for Saints, and director of rugby Jim Mallinder says his team will have to step up their level of performance against Saracens.

Just two points separate the teams in the Aviva Premiership table, and with every league point becoming increasingly vital as the domestic campaign enters its middle third the Saints boss says that nothing short of a focused, determined and accurate performance will do.

“Saracens are on a bit of a roll and have shown in recent weeks that they have the ability to win in different ways,” he said.

“The Aviva Premiership is very tight this season and every point will matter in the chase for the semi-finals.

“So we know that we will have to be on top form in every area of our game if we are to get the win that we want.

“Last week in Toulouse we were guilty of not making the most of our opportunities when they came along. We have had plenty to work on in training this week and every player has been focused on making sure that we get things right tomorrow.”

Saints team to play Saracens: Stephen Myler; Ken Pisi, George Pisi, Dom Waldouck, Vasily Artemyev; Ryan Lamb, Lee Dickson; Soane Tonga’uiha, Dylan Hartley, Paul Doran Jones, Courtney Lawes, Mark Sorenson, Phil Dowson, Tom Wood, GJ van Velze. Replacements: Mike Haywood, Alex Waller, Brian Mujati, Samu Manoa, Rhys Oakley, Martin Roberts, Tom May, Luther Burrell