England stars start as Saints take on Exeter

Dylan Hartley and Courtney Lawes return to the Saints side for Saturday's Aviva Premiership clash with Exeter Chiefs at a sold-out Franklin's Gardens (kick-off 3pm).

By The Newsroom
Friday, 22nd December 2017, 12:32 pm
Updated Friday, 22nd December 2017, 12:36 pm
Courtney Lawes starts for Saints against Exeter (picture: Kirsty Edmonds)
Courtney Lawes starts for Saints against Exeter (picture: Kirsty Edmonds)

Hartley missed last Sunday's 32-15 defeat at Ospreys due to illness, while Lawes was rested.

But they return to the starting line-up, at hooker and blindside flanker respectively.

Tom Wood is also back in the squad after he had to withdraw from last weekend's game because of illness.

Wood will be on the bench for the Chiefs clash, along with the likes of Mike Haywood, Francois van Wyk, David Ribbans and Tom Stephenson, who all started in Swansea.

Campese Ma'afu comes in for his first start of the season at loosehead prop, while Ma'afu's fellow Fiji international Api Ratuniyarawa makes his third start of the campaign in the second row.

Luther Burrell replaces Stephenson in the No.12 shirt, reuniting with Rob Horne at centre.

George North remains sidelined with a knee injury, with Kieran Brookes (hand), Alex Waller (arm), Tom Collins (foot) and Stephen Myler (calf) also missing.

Exeter have injuries of their own, with Henry Slade forced to fill in at full-back due to the absence of Phil Dollman and Lachie Turner.

Sam Hill partners Ian Whitten at centre, with Will Chudley getting a start at scrum-half.

Harry Williams comes in at loosehead prop in place of Tomas Francis, while Jonny Hill replaces Mitch Lees in the second row and Dave Ewers starts at six.

Saints: Mallinder; Tuala, Horne, Burrell, Foden; Francis, Groom; Ma'afu, Hartley (c), Ford-Robinson; Paterson, Ratuniyarawa; Lawes, Gibson, Harrison.

Replacements: Haywood, van Wyk, Hill, Ribbans, Wood, Reinach, Stephenson, Pisi.

Exeter Chiefs: Slade; Nowell, Whitten, S Hill, Woodburn; Steenson (c), Chudley; Moon, Cowan-Dickie, Williams; Skinner, J Hill; Ewers, Armand, S Simmonds.

Replacements: Yeandle, Rimmer, Holmes, Lees, Waldrom, Townsend, J Simmonds, Short.