England stars start for Saints against Falcons

Dylan Hartley returns from England duty and will captain Saints against Newcastle (picture: Sharon Lucey)
Dylan Hartley returns from England duty and will captain Saints against Newcastle (picture: Sharon Lucey)

Dylan Hartley and Courtney Lawes have been thrown straight back into the Saints starting line-up for Friday night's crucial clash with Newcastle Falcons at Franklin's Gardens (kick-off 7.45pm).

Hartley and Lawes both played in all three of England's autumn internationals, starting the first two and coming off the bench in the final one, against Samoa last Saturday.

And they will now look to bring their good form back to their club, who are desperate for a win after losing four successive Aviva Premiership matches.

Hartley skippers Saints, with Lawes lining up in the second row, alongside Michael Paterson.

James Grayson, who started a first-team game for the first time in the 18-15 defeat at Sale Sharks last Saturday, keeps his place at fly-half.

Rob Horne returns from a one-week suspension to take his place at 13, lining up alongside Tom Stephenson, with Luther Burrell, who suffered concussion in a recent defeat at Worcester, not in the matchday squad.

There is no place for Tom Collins, who scored four tries for the Wanderers on Monday night, or Stephen Myler, who also impressed in that match.

Saints remain without Kieran Brookes (hand), Charlie Clare (knee), James Craig (concussion) and George North (knee).

But Api Ratuniyarawa, Piers Francis and Ahsee Tuala are all back from international duty and named among the replacements.

Prop Alex Waller starts at loosehead, making an incredible 150th consecutive Aviva Premiership appearance.

Meanwhile, Newcastle have made eight changes to the team that suffered a tame home defeat to Gloucester last Friday.

Former Leicester Tigers wing Vereniki Goneva is one of those returning to the side, with key scrum-half Sonatane Takulua also returning from international duty.

Toby Flood is named at fly-half, while Josh Matavesi returns to the centres, alongside Scotland's Chris Harris.

There are three changes in the pack, with hooker Kyle Cooper, lock Calum Green and flanker Gary Graham all coming in.

Saints: Mallinder; Estelles, Horne, Stephenson, Foden; Grayson, Reinach; Waller, Hartley (c), Hill; Paterson, Lawes; Wood, Gibson, Harrison.
Replacements: Haywood, van Wyk, Ford-Robinson, Ratuniyarawa, Eadie, Groom, Francis, Tuala.

Newcastle Falcons: Hammersley; Goneva, Harris, Matavesi, Sinoti; Flood, Takulua; Vickers, Cooper, Welsh; Green, Robinson; Welch (c), Graham, M Wilson.
Replacements: Lawson, Mavinga, S Wilson, Witty, Latu, Stuart, Hodgson, Tait.