England skipper Lawes starts for Saints but no Sinckler for Bristol
Stand-in England skipper Courtney Lawes will start for Northampton at Ashton Gate on Friday night but Kyle Sinckler, his Test team colleague, won’t feature for host club Bristol as the tighthead has been given a week off under the RFU elite player squad agreement. Lawes skippered his country twice during their recent Autumn Nations Series, leading them in their victories over Tonga and South Africa in the absence of Owen Farrell.
The Northampton forward quipped to England boss Eddie Jones in the aftermath of the dramatic win over the Springboks last Saturday that he now wanted to retire as skipper while he had an unblemished record.
Rather than take a break following his exploits with England, Lions Test series back-rower Lawes will pack down for Northampton in a Premiership match in which they have Wales talisman Dan Biggar chosen as their starting out-half and he will come up against his national team rival Callum Sheedy, the Bristol No10.
Not since September 2018 have Northampton defeated Bristol in the league, but they are going all guns out to rectify that record judging by the XV they have chosen.
For instance, joining Biggar at half-back is Alex Mitchell, the scrum-half who made his England Test debut when coming off the bench in the win over Tonga, while Georgie Furbank, the starting England No10 in that game, is at full-back.
"It was very difficult for anyone to get past MacGinty, Aki at 12 and Henshaw at 13"
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Bristol, meanwhile, make three changes from their last Premiership outing, the November 6 win over Worcester. Chris Vui, Jake Kerr and Henry Purdy are all back in the side as the Bears seek a third consecutive victory in the competition.
BRISTOL: 15. Charles Piutau; 14. Toby Fricker, 13. Piers O’Conor, 12. Alapati Leiua, 11. Henry Purdy; 10. Callum Sheedy, 9. Andy Uren; 1. Jake Woolmore, 2. Jake Kerr, 3. Max Lahiff, 4. Joe Joyce, 5. Chris Vui, 6. Sam Jeffries, 7. Jake Heenan (capt), 8. Fitz Harding. Reps: 16. Will Capon, 17. Yann Thomas, 18. George Kloska, 19. John Hawkins, 20. Dan Thomas, 21. Tom Whiteley, 22. Sam Bedlow, 23. Niyi Adeolokun.
NORTHAMPTON: 15. George Furbank; 14. Tommy Freeman, 13. Matt Proctor, 12. Fraser Dingwall, 11. Courtnall Skosan; 10. Dan Biggar, 9. Alex Mitchell; 1. Alex Waller, 2. James Fish, 3. Paul Hill, 4. David Ribbans, 5. Alex Moon, 6. Courtney Lawes, 7. Lewis Ludlam (capt), 8. Juarno Augustus. Reps: 16. Sam Matavesi, 17. Emmanuel Iyogun, 18. Conor Carey, 19. Api Ratuniyarawa, 20. Karl Wilkins, 21. Tom James, 22. Rory Hutchinson, 23. Josh Gillespie.
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