England pair Phil Dowson and Lee Dickson have both been recalled to the Saints starting line-up for their LV= Cup clash against Newport-Gwent Dragons at Rodney Parade on Sunday.
Dowson replaces Ben Nutley in the back row as he makes his 100th appearance for the club, while Dickson comes in for Martin Roberts at scrum-half.
Also named in a strong looking Saints side that shows five changes from the team that faced Harlequins last weekend is Samu Manoa instead of Rhys Oakley, while Dom Waldouck returns at centre in place of teenager Tom Stephenson and Ken Pisi replaces Scott Armstrong on the wing.
Director of rugby Jim Mallinder is under no illusions as to the challenge facing Saints as they travel to south Wales in the second round of LV= Cup matches.
This is Saints’ first visit to Newport since 2006, and following last week’s defeat to Quins, Mallinder says that the Saints have plenty of points to prove this weekend.
“We’ve never taken the LV= Cup lightly and Sunday is going to be no different,” he said. “It’s never easy to play in Wales, but we’re going to be up for it and I’m looking for an 80-minute performance to get us back to winning ways.
“We know what we’ve got to do. We need to play sensibly and in the right areas and not gift the opposition points.
“Although we are concentrating on our own performance we know that the Dragons have the ability to take advantage of our mistakes. They have plenty of pace out wide, so we need to defend well and put plenty of pressure on in the forwards.
“It is a big game for us and we have been approaching it in a focused, positive way.”
Sunday’s game is Dowson’s 100th in the black, green and gold.
The back rower joined from Newcastle in the summer of 2009 and became the first Saint to lift a major domestic trophy when he led the team to LV= Cup success in March 2010.
Mallinder added that Dowson had been an important player during the past three-and-a-half years.
“Phil has established himself not just as one of our senior players but also one of the best players in his position in the country,” he said.
“That he has reached his century of appearances in just over three years shows his durability and consistency, and I’d like to congratulate him on achieving the milestone.”
Saints team to play Newport-Gwent Dragons, LV= Cup, Rodney Parade, Sunday November 18, ko 3.15pm: Tom May; Ken Pisi, Dom Waldouck, Luther Burrell, Jamie Elliott; Ryan Lamb, Lee Dickson; Alex Waller, Mike Haywood, Paul Doran-Jones, Samu Manoa, Mark Sorenson, Calum Clark, Phil Dowson, GJ Van Velze.
Replacements: Ross McMillan, Ethan Waller, Brian Mujati, Rhys Oakley, Ben Nutley, Martin Roberts, Scott Armstrong, Tom Collins