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No Northampton changes in team named for Gallagher Premiership final

By Liam Heagney
Northampton celebrate Burger Odendaal's semi-final try against Saracens (Photo by Andrew Kearns/CameraSport via Getty Images)

Phil Dowson has unveiled an unchanged Northampton starting line-up for Saturday’s Gallagher Premiership final on the back of last weekend’s semi-final success over Saracens.

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The Saints dethroned the defending champions 22-20 at Franklin’s Gardens and so impressed was Dowson with his squad that he has named the same match day 23, including a repeat six/two forwards/backs bench split, for the Twickenham showpiece.

Rivals Bath have done likewise following their semi-final success over Sale, naming the same match day 23 and sticking with a six/two divide on their bench.

A statement read: “Phil Dowson has named a completely unchanged matchday 23 as Northampton Saints head to their first Gallagher Premiership final since 2014, facing Bath in the league’s showpiece finale on Saturday.

“Saints topped the league during the regular season, winning 12 of their 18 matches before defeating reigning champions Saracens 22-20 in last week’s sold-out semi-final clash at cinch Stadium at Franklin’s Gardens.

Fixture
Gallagher Premiership
Northampton
25 - 21
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Bath
All Stats and Data

“Northampton will make only their third appearance in the final in the competition’s history, exactly a decade on from lifting Saints’ first-ever domestic league title; and face Bath in a final for only the second time in all competitions, having defeated them side 30-16 in Cardiff to lift the Challenge Cup in 2014.

“Saints will bid farewell to several club stalwarts in the last match of the 2023/24 season, with Courtney Lawes leading the team on his 283rd and final match representing Northampton, while triple centurion Alex Waller, 122-time Saint Alex Moon and club captain Lewis Ludlam are also among those making their final bow in the matchday 23.

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“England internationals Curtis Langdon, Trevor Davison, Alex Coles and Tom Pearson all retain their places in Saints’ pack alongside captain Lawes and lock Moon, with No8 Juarno Augustus, who beat more defenders than any other player in the semi-finals (five), also staying on to complete the pack.

“Scrum-half Alex Mitchell, who made more clean breaks (four) than any other player in last weekend’s clash, joins top-points scorer Fin Smith in the half-back berths for the final time this season.

“Saints stick with their prolific back-three combination of Ollie Sleightholme, Tommy Freeman and George Furbank, with Fraser Dingwall partnering last week’s only try-scorer Burger Odendaal in Northampton’s midfield.

“Back row Ludlam will make his final appearances as a Saint from amongst Northampton’s replacements, while there is also room for Sam Matavesi, Emmanuel Iyogun, Elliot Millar-Mills, Temo Mayanavanua, Sam Graham, Tom James and George Hendy as Saints opt for a 6-2 split on the bench for the final.”

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Dowson said: “Throughout the season, we have had lots and lots of players contribute a lot. We have relied on the depth of the squad and there are a lot of players who are unlucky not to be involved and are frustrated about that.

“Clearly it is difficult to pick for big games like this, because these are the games that define people. It’s a big game that everyone wants to play in, so there is some disappointment and pressure around that, but we have gone with the team that we think best suits us to get a good performance.

“There is a responsibility for every player picked to wear that shirt and represent all of us. We win together, we lose together, it is a huge squad effort and everyone has a role to play. It might not be the role you choose at the moment, but you have got to keep on grafting away until it is.”

Northampton (vs Bath, Saturday): 15. George Furbank; 14. Tommy Freeman, 13. Burger Odendaal, 12. Fraser Dingwall, 11. Ollie Sleightholme; 10. Fin Smith, 9. Alex Mitchell; 1. Alex Waller, 2. Curtis Langdon, 3. Trevor Davison, 4. Alex Moon, 5. Alex Coles, 6. Courtney Lawes (capt), 7. Tom Pearson, 8. Juarno Augustus. Reps: 16. Sam Matavesi, 17. Emmanuel Iyogun, 18. Elliot Millar-Mills, 19. Temo Mayanavanua, 20. Sam Graham, 21. Lewis Ludlam, 22. Tom James, 23. George Hendy.

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M
Mzilikazi 28 minutes ago
Is Ireland versus South Africa a battle for the title of ‘world champions’?

Very good article, Nic, and I find agreement with what you write virtually 100%. I think this two mach series has increasingly become one which will be very difficult for Ireland to win. After the first game of the last 6N, I would have been very full of confidence taking on the Boks in SA. France beaten by a big margin in France, it looked as if Ireland had emerged in fine form from the World Cup, despite the very narrow loss to the AB’s. But after that game, a slide began, ending with the defeat to England. Ireland were very fortunate to win this years 6N ! And as you so fully expose, this has not been a good season for Leinster, or indeed, in my view, for any Irish province. The Leinster loos to the Bulls, and then Munster letting a glorious chance slip to the Glasgow Warriors down at Thomond. Man, that one will really hurt. And both Connacht and Ulster have at times looked very poor this seaso, bith heavily beaten on occassion. The loss of both Gibson Park and Keenan are huge blows, especially Gibson Park. And there is really only one clear class 10 in the touring party, Jack Crowley, and he is still a very young player learning his trade. If he goes down, heaven help Ireland. And in my view, Ireland do not have a good scrummaging front row, SA do, and in great depth too. But despite all this doom and gloom, I always believe my team can win. Not that they will win, just can ! Ireland will still field what is the best and most talented team overall that I have seen in my lifetime. But the coaching group will really have to step up, no awful decisions like the one made against the AB’s in the QF….keeping the totally spent and poorly performing(on the day) Sexton on for the full 80mins, leaving Crowley on the sidelines. Ireland should never have lost that game !

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S
Shaylen 3 hours ago
Is Ireland versus South Africa a battle for the title of ‘world champions’?

Ireland have all the tools required to hurt SA. They develop quick ball, hold onto the ball for long periods, stretch the game when its on, have powerful mobile forwards, a good kicking game and they can hold their own in the scrum. They also can force turnovers regularly and in general do well at the breakdown. When Munster, the Ospreys and Glasgow all won games in SA this year against the Bulls and Stormers they did just that and won. It is also the reason why Ireland won the game at the world cup last year. The problem for Ireland is that SA have all the tools required to hurt them as well and hurt them a great deal more than England did in the Six Nations. They are physical and powerful at the set piece, they rush up and counter the Irish attacking system and they can really attack the breakdown and slow your ball down. Their counterattacking threat is also a big weapon and they score many tries from turnover turning defence into offence in a second. Toulouse and the Bulls nailed Leinster in this way and Glasgow did the same thing to Munster. So the series will be really interesting because both sides are so good at countering each other. Interested to see what kind of surprises Tony Brown springs and how the SA game develops. Feel like SA have more potential to surprise Ireland but then a new coaching set up as well as the fact that Japanese and foreign based players tend to take about 5 to 6 weeks to get up to speed might work in Irelands favour. SA have shipped at least one game in 4 of the last 5 June/July test windows going back to 2018 for this exact reason.

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F
Flankly 4 hours ago
'Let them keep talking' - Mike Catt claps back over Bok remarks

The comments were reported weirdly. De Allende did say it would be war, but he said it amidst comments like “Ireland play such good footy”, and “they are so good at the breakdown”. He said that the Boks lost heavily to Ireland a few years back and that they felt the Irish press was dismissive of the Boks. I don’t recall that, but I suppose it is true, and that SA players would want to turn around that sentiment. The RWC loss to Ireland would naturally pour fuel on the fire. In short, it is a natural thing for passionate players like him to feel very strongly about the goal of registering a convincing series win against Ireland. There is really nothing to see here. As an aside, the SA team shouldn’t be too self-righteous about this kind of a situation. Recall that in 2004, after SA won the Ireland series in SA, Jake White noted that no more than two Irish players were good enough for selection in his Bok side. "Considering the facts, I think only two of their players would be included in the Bok team - O'Driscoll (centre) and maybe one of the locks. How could we have lost against the Irish?" O’Driscoll disagreed and said that it was close, and Ireland were just tired. My Irish friends were pretty incensed by the comments, quite rightly. And I am sure it was part of the energy that drove them to some famous wins against the Boks. The Etzebeth thing was a little different. I think he was just not hearing what was being said. It is not that unusual for someone to say “We will see you in the final”. Of course it is a statement of confidence, which every team should have, but it is also a compliment. I think there was a cultural fly-by, in which a “see you soon” comment was taken to mean “we will beat you again”. But it was a good story, and a convenient clickbaity headline. I don’t think anyone is intentionally trying to rile up anything. But if you interview a Bok player and prod them about their passion wrt the Ireland tour, you are likely to hear some pretty heartfelt words. And so you should.

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T
Turlough 5 hours ago
Are Ireland and Leinster the biggest chokers in world rugby?

Obviously there is a series coming up between SA and Ireland…… Ireland won the six nations (again) went unbeaten for almost 20 games til last Autumn beating all the top world teams twice. Held our nerve to beat NZ in a home NZ series. The RWC draw meant that we had to play a title contender in the Quarter that was a 50:50 and the schedule meant that we had to play a top 5 team 7 days before that quarter against a team who were lining us up all tournament and all year. Maybe Ireland should have focussed more on NZ at the expense of the preparation for the Scottish match? Who knows but thats a coaching issue, I saw no mental frailty during that match. As it happenned NZ were clearly better and got through. France have also been eliminated in the quarters last two world cups (including their home match). They have been solidly beaten by Ireland two years in a row. Where are the jibes there? If Ireland have an issue at the end of games it is game management. Against Toulouse, they aimlessly played on with a scrum advantage and then missed the drop. Leinster’s scrum was completely dominant so a scrum was likely worth a penaltyto win the game off the tee. No penalty, then set of the drop goal attemp then. That was missing, that’s end game management. NZ were getting there with this in 2011 but the Semi Victory over SA in 2015 was a victory of game management. Ireland will address it (hopefully very soon). I like the way the Irish team are staying so quiet. These jibes from SA players and pundits no doubt fueling that quiet energy. Underdog status suits Ireland perfectly. Ireland may not win, but expect a major performance in Loftus.

17 Go to comments
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