North makes Saints return at St James' Park

George North scored on his most recent appearance, against London Irish on February 17 (picture: Sharon Lucey)
George North scored on his most recent appearance, against London Irish on February 17 (picture: Sharon Lucey)

George North will make his first Saints start since February 17 when the black, green and gold square up to Newcastle Falcons at St James' Park on Saturday evening (kick-off 5.30pm).

North was disciplined by the club earlier this week for missing a training session in the build-up to the clash with Sale Sharks on March 3.

He did not feature in that clash, with Saints coaching consultant Alan Gaffney suggesting the Wales wing did not want to play during what was a Six Nations rest weekend.

But things have been smoothed over following a meeting at Franklin's Gardens on Monday and North will now return to the team in the No.11 shirt.

Ben Nutley also gets a starting berth, stepping in at No.8 for the suspended Teimana Harrison.

It will be Nutley's third start of the current campaign, with his most recent appearance coming from the bench in the Anglo-Welsh Cup semi-final defeat at Bath on March 9.

On that occasion, he replaced Heinrich Brüssow, who suffered a hamstring injury that will see him miss this weekend's game.

Tom Wood and Courtney Lawes are also absent, meaning David Ribbans starts at six and Mitch Eadie gets a place on the bench.

Christian Day will again captain the team, which shows a total of five changes from the side that lost at Bath.

Mike Haywood returns at hooker, while Nic Groom comes in for Cobus Reinach at scrum-half.

Luther Burrell (shoulder), Alex Waller (arm) and Dylan Hartley (illness), who concluded Six Nations duties with England last weekend, are all ruled out.

Newcastle Falcons: Hammersley; Goneva, Harris, Matavesi, Sinoti; Flood, Young; Lockwood, Cooper, Davison; Green, Robinson; Olmstead, Welch (c), Latu.
Replacements: Lawson, Vickers, Wilson, Witty, Hogg, Stuart, Hodgson, Mermoz.

Saints: Tuala; Tuitavake, Horne, Francis, North; Myler, Groom; Ma'afu, Haywood, Brookes; Ratuniyarawa, Day (c); Ribbans, Gibson, Nutley.

Replacements: Marshall, van Wyk, Ford-Robinson, Paterson, Eadie, Reinach, Mallinder, Foden.