Fixture: Northampton Saints vs London Irish
Competition: Gallagher Premiership, Round 2
Date: 17th September 2022
Stadium: cinch Stadium at Franklin’s Gardens
London Irish is back on the road this weekend for a first away trip of the Gallagher Premiership season, with Northampton Saints lying in wait at the cinch Stadium at Franklin’s Gardens.
Phil Dowson’s side welcome Irish to the Midlands after the Exiles continued their excellent run of home form against Worcester Warriors (losing just once in their last 14), with the 45-14 result also being the first opening day win of the Premiership since 2019 for Irish.
The Boys in Green not only top of the charts in the Gallagher Premiership overall standings, but amassed the most points (45), tries (7) and turnovers won (9) in Round 1 and rank in the top five teams in carries (131), tackles (151) and visits to the 22 (10).
Saints conversely managed a losing bonus point in their away visit to Sale Sharks, finishing with a flurry through a Tom Collins brace and an Ollie Sleightholme try that meant the Franklin’s Gardens side walked away with something from the 29-22 defeat.
The vivacious style of the game employed by Saturday’s hosts was still evident in defeat, having topped the defenders beaten chart with (29), and also in top five of metres gained (505) and visits to 22 (10).
Whilst Irish’s win means they have lost just one of their last four league games, Northampton’s record is inversed with just one win in as many games, coming in a 65-26 victory at home against Newcastle Falcons in June.
In the time being, the East Midlanders have replenished their stock with nine new signings, namely Queensland Reds duo Angus Scott-Young and Lukhan Salakaia-Loto, and scrum-half Callum Braley, formerly of Benetton Treviso.
The boss- Phil Dowson:
Possessing a distinguished playing career in his extensive repertoire, Dowson won the Powergen and Anglo-Welsh Cups twice, one each with Newcastle Falcons and Northampton Saints, also playing a part in the latter’s double winning side of the 2013/14 season.
Dowson spent eight seasons at Kingston Park with Falcons, two of which as captain, before a switch further south to Northampton where he earned his first England cap after time with the Saxons squad in numerous Churchill Cup tournaments.
Attaining a decorated stint with the side in Black, Green and Gold, the former back-row forward spent two seasons with Worcester Warriors where he reached 262 Premiership appearances, the joint third highest in the division.
Upon completion of his playing days, he then re-joined Northampton as Assistant Coach, impressing with a quick progression to being named as Forwards Coach ahead of the 2018/19 season, as well as coaching an England XV against the Barbarians in 2019.
In the 2022/23 campaign, Phil Dowson enters his first season in charge of at the Club he made 186 appearances for, ascending from the Forwards Coach position whilst operating under previous Director of Rugby, Chris Boyd.
One to watch- Lukhan Salakaia-Loto:
Salakaia-Loto was one of three debutants for Saints last week, joined by Sam Graham and former Queensland Reds teammate Angus Scott-Young in their maiden Saints run-outs against Sale Sharks.
On his debut, the second-row forward made 24 metres from 11 carries (second-most of any forward), seven passes including two offloads, nine tackles, one defender beaten, whilst also winning and stealing a lineout.
The Australian international joined from the Super Rugby Pacific outfit after a seven-year stay, with Director of Rugby Phil Dowson praising the abrasiveness and adaptability of Salakaia-Loto as well as Scott-Young in their first game.
Having represented Australia in the 2015 and 2016 World Rugby Under-20s Championships and then making his Test debut against South Africa in 2017, the versatile 25-year-old earned 30 caps for his country to date including five in the 2019 Rugby World Cup.
Cutting an imposing 6’6”, 121kg frame able to slot in amongst the back row, Salakaia-Loto started his rugby career in the league code with Western Suburbs before representing Randwick in Sydney.
Classic Encounter- London Irish 25-23 Northampton Saints – 26th December 2015 – Aviva Premiership:
The Exiles earned a satisfying win over Northampton Saints in their Christmas fixture at the Madejski Stadium in 2015, a late penalty try being the only divider between the sides.
Luke Narraway and Sean Maitland lifted the home side into the ascendency with two first-half scores, although Ken Pisi bit back to bring his men back into the conversation.
Pisi’s score set the tone for second period, Saints leapfrogging Irish with smart scores from George North and Kahn Fotuali’I to establish a five-point swing.
Nevertheless, a late penalty try was awarded following a dominant set-piece from the Exiles and victory stayed with Tom Coventry’s side in Reading.
Tries: Luke Narraway, Sean Maitland, Penalty try
Conversions: Chris Noakes, Shane Geraghty
Penalties: Chris Noakes (2)
Tries: Ken Pisi, George North, Kahn Fotuali’i
Conversion: Steven Myler
Penalties: Steven Myler (2)
Northampton Saints Director of Rugby Phil Dowson has confirmed that Wales international out-half Dan Biggar will be in contention to play against London Irish in Round 2 of the Gallagher Premiership this weekend.
“Dan Biggar’s available, we’re just waiting and seeing,” Dowson revealed this week.
“He’s not done much contact so we look at the GPS data, we talk to the medics and the S&C and decide at what point they’re ready to go or if they’re ready for a position on the bench.”
Whist also announcing that forwards David Ribbans and Ehren Painter have returned to training, Dowson also said that his Club’s England tourists of Australia will have to face another week away from the pitch.
“We’ve got guys coming back in this week and then the following week the England guys are available,” Dowson said.
“I can’t pick them this week, as you have to apply for special dispensation.
“Courtney played a lot of minutes on tour, Lewis played a lot of minutes on tour, and we try to give those guys a proper off-season.
“We’d love to have them available to play against Irish, but we trust the depth of the squad and we know that in the long term we need to look after those guys in terms of player welfare.”
Irish name side for west London derby
Declan Kidney has confirmed the squad for Sunday’s derby clash with Harlequins at the Gtech Community Stadium in Round 16 of the Gallagher Premiership (3pm kick-off).
Will Goodrick-Clarke, Agustin Creevy and Oliver Hoskins are in the front row, with Rob Simmons and Adam Coleman in the second row.
Matt Rogerson captains the side from the six jersey and is joined in the back row by Tom Pearson and Chandler Cunningham-South.
Ben White and Paddy Jackson link up to form the halfback duo, and Rory Jennings partners Benhard van Rensburg in the centres.
Michael Dykes, Lucio Cinti and James Stokes complete the line-up as the back three.
“Whenever these two clubs pitch up against one another, it always creates a good game of rugby,” said Declan Kidney, Director of Rugby.
“I know that we are expecting a good crowd at the Gtech Community Stadium on Sunday, and they will inevitably create a great atmosphere.
“We need to make sure that we put in a full 80-minute performance to give our supporters a reason to show their voice. Harlequins are a well-drilled side, and we know it will be a difficult challenge this weekend, but one we look forward to.”
15 James Stokes, 14 Lucio Cinti, 13 Benhard van Rensburg, 12 Rory Jennings, 11 Michael Dykes, 10 Paddy Jackson, 9 Ben White, 1 Will Goodrick-Clarke, 2 Agustin Creevy, 3 Oliver Hoskins, 4 Rob Simmons, 5 Adam Coleman, 6 Matt Rogerson (c), 7 Tom Pearson, 8 Chandler Cunningham-South.
16 Mike Willemse, 17 Danilo Fischetti, 18 Ciaran Parker, 19 Api Ratuniyarawa, 20 Juan Martin Gonzalez, 21 Joe Powell, 22 Luca Morisi, 23 Henry Arundell.
Baxter issues Moon injury update
By Mark Stevens
Rob Baxter says he cannot give a timescale as to when prop Ben Moon will return to the Exeter Chiefs match-day squad.
The 33-year-old forward is currently Exeter’s longest-serving player, having made his debut in 2008 away to Sedgley Park, and is the last remaining member of their 2009-10 promotion squad.
The England international, however, has not featured for the Devon club since coming off the bench against Munster in last April’s Heineken Champions Cup clash at Sandy Park.
Asked by the media this week about Moon, the Chiefs’ Director of Rugby said: “I wouldn’t hold out hope that he’s going to be appearing soon. It’s been a challenge for Ben for a little period of time now, it’s not just been this season.
“He’s had periods in and out with it, it’s something that’s been affecting him for a little while and because of what it is we just have to be very careful with it.”
Moon has featured in all six of Exeter’s Premiership final appearances at Twickenham – and he also played in the 2020 European Champions Cup final win over Racing 92, and Exeter’s first major final when they beat Northampton Saints to win the 2014 LV Cup.
Moon won eight England caps in the 2018-19 season, but did not make the squad for that autumn’s World Cup in Japan.
“He’s still active around the club, he’s still here, he’s in training, he’s continuing very hard with his rehab and getting everything else he can right, but we’ve just got to be really careful around that neck.
“It’s probably one of those things where it’s getting to the stage where there’s not a lot more we can do. I can’t talk for Ben about his future, but you’re not going to see him in the immediate future on the pitch.”
TEAM NEWS – Sale Sharks v Bath Rugby
South African talisman Rob du Preez is set to make his 100th Sharks appearance whilst Alex Groves is in line for his Gallagher Premiership debut as Alex Sanderson names his side to face Bath Rugby at the AJ Bell Stadium tomorrow night. (Kick-off 7:45pm – Live on BT Sport)
Sanderson makes seven changes to the Sale starting line-up as his squad returns to Gallagher Premiership action following defeat at the hands of Ulster in the Champions Cup.
In the forwards, there is a complete change of the Sharks front-row as Simon McIntyre, Tommy Taylor and Nick Schonert all return to face Bath.
Cobus Wiese links back up with Josh Beaumont in the second row following a one-match suspension for a dangerous tackle in the Sharks’ clash with Toulouse two weeks ago.
Jono Ross captains the side in the absence of Ben Curry, whilst Sam Dugdale steps in to replace the flanker after his England call up to Steve Borthwick’s England squad. Jean-Luc du Preez retains the number 8 shirt with twin-brother Dan remaining on the side lines due to an ongoing hand injury.
Gus Warr continues to provide a platform for success at scrum-half and links up with centurion Rob du Preez, who is named at fly-half.
The ever-present Sam James retains the thirteen shirt with Ryan Mills picked at inside centre in the absence of Manu Tuilagi. The former Wasps centre is one of two changes in the Sharks’ back line.
Sanderson’s second change in the backs comes in the form of Tom Roebuck, who replaces Arron Reed on the wing after an impressive cameo in the Champions Cup. Tom O’Flaherty is named on the other wing, with exciting academy graduate Joe Carpenter at full-back.
On the bench, Ewan Ashman, Ross Harrison and Joe Jones are named as front-row replacements, with Alex Groves and Rouban Birch providing further cover for the forwards. Raffi Quirke, Luke James and Arron Reed cover the backs.
Sale Sharks Starting XV:
15. Joe Carpenter, 14. Tom Roebuck, 13. Sam James, 12. Ryan Mills, 11. Tom O’Flaherty, 10. Robert du Preez, 9. Gus Warr; 1. Simon McIntyre, 2. Tommy Taylor, 3. Nick Schonert, 4. Cobus Wiese, 5. Josh Beaumont, 6. Jono Ross (c), 7. Sam Dugdale, 8. Jean-Luc du Preez
16. Ewan Ashman, 17. Ross Harrison, 18. Joe Jones, 19. Alex Groves, 20. Rouban Birch, 21. Raffi Quirke, 22. Luke James, 23. Arron Reed
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