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London Irish boss Declan Kidney accepts his team will tackle a form side when they meet the Saints on Friday night. The Premiership resumes after a two-week break for European action during which time Saracens’ relegation from English rugby’s top flight was confirmed following their salary cap breaches.
Although Saracens, having been docked 35 points earlier this season, still faced a battle to avoid the drop, their fate has now been sealed. And it means that clubs like tenth-placed Irish and Leicester, in eleventh, can play the rest of this campaign with no fear of being demoted.
Irish head to Franklin’s Gardens, where Northampton have won their last five league games and are unbeaten there in Premiership action since April. Victory for Saints would take them top of the league above Exeter, with the Chiefs in action against Sale Sharks on Saturday.
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Declan Kidney talks to RugbyPass about life as a director of rugby
Irish, meanwhile, have suffered seven successive losses in all competitions and their last league away win was almost four months ago.
“Northampton are a team in good form, as shown by their position in the league table and securing qualification to the knockout stages of the Champions Cup,” Irish rugby director Kidney said. “We know it will be a challenge, but one that we are looking forward to.”
Northampton boss Chris Boyd has made eight changes for a return to league action following last weekend’s Champions Cup victory over Lyon.
Fly-half James Grayson and centre Rory Hutchinson are among the starters as Saints go into action without their England Six Nations squad members. Other players called up include prop Ben Franks and number eight Mitch Eadie.
“We’ve spoken about Stevie (Myler) and his kicking is a real threat. He can nudge them over from anywhere,” Northampton prop Alex Waller said. “I haven’t spoken to Stevie this week yet, but I’m looking forward to playing against him. It’s always nice when you see your mates.”
NORTHAMPTON: 15. Ahsee Tuala; 14. Ollie Sleightholme, 13. Rory Hutchinson, 12. Piers Francis, 11. Taqele Naiyaravoro; 10. James Grayson, 9. Cobus Reinach; 1. Ben Franks, 2. Mike Haywood, 3. Owen Franks, 4. Alex Coles, 5. Api Ratuniyarawa, 6. Tom Wood, 7. Teimana Harrison (capt), 8. Mitch Eadie. Reps: 16. James Fish, 17. Alex Waller, 18. Ehren Painter, 19. Lewis Bean, 20. JJ Tonks, 21. Henry Taylor, 22. Andrew Symons, 23. Tom Collins
LONDON IRISH: 15. James Stokes; 14. Waisake Naholo, 13. Curtis Rona, 12. Terrence Hepetema, 11. Ollie Hassell-Collins; 10. Stephen Myler, 9. Ben Meehan; 1. Harry Elrington, 2. Dave Porecki, 3. Sekope Kepu, 4. Franco van der Merwe (capt), 5. Adam Coleman, 6. Matt Rogerson, 7. Blair Cowan, 8. Albert Tuisue. Reps: 16. Ben Atkins, 17. Allan Dell, 18. Ollie Hoskins, 19. Steve Mafi, 20. Ben Donnell, 21. Nick Phipps, 22. Tom Stephenson, 23. Matt Williams.
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