Experienced flanker Andy Hazell is back after suspension for Gloucester’s LV= Cup clash at Northampton on Saturday, in a side skippered by Peter Buxton which also sees Lua Lokotui make his debut for the club.
Hazell and Buxton provide the wily know-how in a line-up which is a blend of youth and experience.
Tongan international second-row Lokotui makes his debut for the club having flown into the country last Sunday.
There is also a first start of the season for Ryan Mills, the England U20 international, following close season knee surgery.
Gloucester have won one and lost one from their two matches in the competition so far this season, so the game at Franklin’s Gardens is a must win if the club is to have a chance of progressing to the semi-final stage.
Forwards Coach Carl Hogg knows that Gloucester face a challenge, but will be up for the task in hand.
“We’re looking to be successful in every competition, and we’re obviously looking to win the game at the weekend,” he said.
“It’s a competitive group and we’ve got it all to do. We’ve got Saints away and then Bath at home, so it’s tough. But we go to Franklin’s Gardens in good heart and will be looking to go up there and perform at our best.”
Gloucester will field some of their best up and coming young talent alongside some experienced first teamers, and Hogg feels it’s the right opportunity for them.
“The LV= Cup is a competition where you can take a look at some of our younger players. Our senior players can also get some game time and help bring on our youngsters,” he said.
“That’s key not just for this season, but also going forward. Saints are big and physical and always go well at Franklin’s Gardens. It will be a stern test but one we’re looking forward to.”
Form: Northampton Saints, who reached the final of the LV= Cup last season, narrowly lost (30-31) their six year 11 game winning run at Franklin’s Gardens in the Anglo-Welsh Cup against Harlequins in round one. Gloucester, the 2010/11 LV= Cup winners, have won two of their last three away games in all competitions but have not won away from home in the LV= Cup since a visit to Leeds on 30 January 2011. Gloucester’s only previous trip to Franklin’s Gardens in this tournament was for the 2011 final, where they beat Newcastle Falcons 34-7. The two clubs’ only previous meeting in this competition was in the 2010 final at Sixways in Worcester where the Saints took the spoils 30-24.
Northampton: 15 Ben Foden, 14 James Wilson, 13 George Pisi, 12 Luther Burrell, 11 Tom May, 10 Ryan Lamb, 9 Martin Roberts, 8 Rhys Oakley, 7 Phil Dowson, (capt), 6 Samu Monoa, 5 Christian Day, 4 Mark Sorenson, 3 Tom Mercey, 2 Mike Haywood, 1 Alex Waller.
Replacements: 16 Ross McMillan, 17 Soane Tonga’uiha, 18 Ethan Waller, 19 James Craig, 20 Ben Nutley, 21 Lee Dickson, 22 Stephen Myler, 23 Tom Collins.
Gloucester: 15 Martyn Thomas, 14 Steph Reynolds, 13 Henry Trinder, 12 Tim Molenaar, 11 Shane Monahan, 10 Ryan Mills, 9 Dave Lewis; 8 Gareth Evans, 7 Andy Hazell,6 Peter Buxton (capt), 5 Elliott Stooke; 4 Lua Lokotui,3 Dario Chistolini; 2 Koree Britton, 1 Yann Thomas.
Replacements: 16 Tommaso d’Apice, 17 Dan Murphy, 18 Tom Heard, 19 Tom Savage, 20 Ross Moriarty, 21 Jimmy Cowan, 22 Mike Tindall, 23 Rob Cook.
Date: Saturday, January 26
Venue: Franklin’s Gardens
Referee: Luke Pearce (England)
Assistant referees: Nigel Carrick (England), Gareth Copsey (England)
Timekeeper: Matthew Peters (England)
Assessor: Tony Spreadbury (England)