Wilson returns for Saints’ crunch clash with Castres

James Wilson will make his first Saints start since October as he replaces Ken Pisi for the crunch Heineken Cup clash with Castres on Friday night.

By Tom Vickers
Thursday, 10th January 2013, 11:34 am

Wilson, who joined Northampton from Bourgoin during the summer, last played for Saints in the game against Glasgow on October 14, lasting just 57 minutes.

He picked up a calf strain during that game, his third in Saints colours, and has been out ever since.

But the utility back is back in the side this week, replacing Pisi, who suffered an ankle injury in Saints’ 30-19 win at Exeter last weekend, at 14.

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As well as that enforced change, Saints boss Jim Mallinder has made two more changes to the side which claimed victory at Sandy Park.

Samu Manoa comes in for Mark Sorenson in the second row, while Tom Wood replaces GJ van Velze in the back row, with Phil Dowson shifting to No.8.

Saints remain in contention in Heineken Cup Pool 4, but boss Jim Mallinder knows only a win will do as his men look to qualify for the knockout stages.

“We still have a massive point to prove in Europe, and the players know what is expected of them on Friday night,” he said.

“We need a win to keep our destiny in our own hands, especially as Castres are two points ahead of us in the pool.

”We also know that it will not be easy against one of the top teams in France.

“Castres have been in superb form over the past few months and have been playing a style of rugby which makes the most of their big forwards and speed out wide.

“It is a massive challenge for us, and all of the focus has been on what we need to do on Friday.

“We are just about playing knockout rugby, so getting the win is all that matters.

”But we’ve been playing well recently, scoring good tries and defending well, so there is plenty for us to build on and we are in a positive frame of mind to get our home form back on track.”

Saints team v Castres: Heineken Cup Round 5, Franklin’s Gardens, Friday, January 11, 2013, kick-off 8pm: Ben Foden; James Wilson, George Pisi, Dom Waldouck, Jamie Elliott; Stephen Myler, Lee Dickson; Soane Tonga’uiha, Dylan Hartley, Paul Doran-Jones, Samu Manoa, Courtney Lawes, Calum Clark, Tom Wood, Phil Dowson. Replacements: Mike Haywood, Alex Waller, Tom Mercey, Mark Sorenson, GJ van Velze, Martin Roberts, Ryan Lamb, Tom May