Hartley, Lawes and Day start as Saints make three changes for Irish test

SKIPPER RETURNS - Dylan Hartley will play for Saints against London Irish (Picture: Linda Dawson)
SKIPPER RETURNS - Dylan Hartley will play for Saints against London Irish (Picture: Linda Dawson)

England pair Dylan Hartley and Courtney Lawes go straight into the starting line-up for Saints’ Aviva Premiership clash with London Irish at Franklin’s Gardens on Saturday (ko 3pm).

The pair were unavailable for Saints’ win over Bath last weekend as they were playing for England in their Six Nations win over France at Twickenham.

It’s a rest weekend in the Six Nations, but skipper Hartley and Lawes were released by England coach Stuart Lancaster for club duty, and both will start for Saints.

Also recalled to the starting XV is Christian Day, as Saints director of rugby Jim Mallinder makes three changes to the team that edged past Bath.

Dropping out are Mike Haywood, Mark Sorenson and Ben Nutley, while fit-again Brian Mujati is named on the replacements bench for a match Saints must win to maintain their push for a place in the play-offs.

Also on the bench is Alex Waller, who insists that although Irish are struggling at the wrong end of the table, they cannot be taken lightly - especially as the Exiles were too strong for Saints when the sides met at the Madejski Stadium back in September.

“We’ve got a bit of momentum at the moment and hopefully we can get a win to keep that going,” said Waller.

“Back in September we weren’t right mentally when we went to Reading and they punished us.

“We know that we can’t have a single minute off in the Aviva Premiership; every team’s a good team and has the capability to beat you.

“We can’t switch off and we’ve been preparing for London Irish in the same way we do for every game.

“They’re a good team with good forwards and some exciting backs, and now the ground’s firming up that’s when they could come into play.

“We’re going to have to go into this game focused and not look at the table in terms of where they are. We need to switch on and be in the same frame of mind we were last week.”

Tickets remain available for tomorrow’s game, with prices starting at £28 for adults and £18 for juniors and concessions. Order now by calling Northampton 581000.

Saints team to play London Irish, Aviva Premiership, Franklin’s Gardens, Saturday, March 2, ko 3pm: Ben Foden; James Wilson, George Pisi, Tom May, Jamie Elliott; Stephen Myler, Lee Dickson; Soane Tonga’uiha, Dylan Hartley, Tom Mercey, Courtney Lawes, Christian Day, Samu Manoa, Phil Dowson, GJ Van Velze.

Replacements: Ross McMillan, Alex Waller, Brian Mujati, Mark Sorenson, Ben Nutley, Martin Roberts, Ryan Lamb, Dom Waldouck