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Saints lose England duo

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Saints lose two England internationals due to 'illness'

Northampton Saints have lost a duo of England internationals due to ‘illness’.

Api Ratuniyarawa will start Northampton Saints’ clash against Sale Sharks this afternoon, with Tom Wood ruled out this morning through illness.

The 33-year-old Fiji international comes into the second row, while Courtney Lawes shifts to flanker to cover for the absent Wood, and Lewis Bean takes Ratuniyarawa’s spot amongst the replacements – wearing No.19.

Paul Hill is also ruled out through illness and Owen Franks takes his place on the bench.

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Northampton Saints director of rugby Chris Boyd has been able to call on the cavalry this weekend, with the likes of Courtney Lawes, George Furbank and Cobus Reinach all returning from injury against Sale Sharks.

The men in Black, Green and Gold travel to Manchester in round six of the Gallagher Premiership with four wins from five matches so far to their name, although they face a tough challenge on Saturday (kick-off 3pm) having won just twice at the AJ Bell Stadium in league action.

Boyd makes ten changes to the line-up that went down to Pro14 champions Leinster last weekend in Dublin, with Lawes returning from a hamstring problem that has kept him out of action since mid-November to take his place at lock.

Alex Moon also is named in the second row, while Club co-captain Alex Waller, Mikey Haywood and Ehren Painter all come into a new-look tight five.

Lewis Ludlam kept his place in the Northampton pack, although he shifts to flanker to make room for co-captain Teimana Harrison at number eight to round off a back row packed with international experience.

World Cup winner Reinach shakes off the knee injury that kept him out of last weekend’s trip to Dublin to re-join Dan Biggar in the half-back axis, while Rory Hutchinson also returns at inside centre to link up with Matt Proctor in Saints’ midfield.

Taqele Naiyaravoro keeps his place on the wing but Tom Collins – Northampton’s top try-scorer so far this season – and Furbank return to complete an electric back three.

15 George Furbank
14 Tom Collins
13 Matt Proctor
12 Rory Hutchinson
11 Taqele Naiyaravoro
10 Dan Biggar
9 Cobus Reinach

1 Alex Waller (co-capt)
2 Mike Haywood
3 Ehren Painter
4 Alex Moon
5 Api Ratuniyarawa
6 Courtney Lawes
7 Lewis Ludlam
8 Teimana Harrison (co-capt)

Replacements:
16 Sam Matavesi
17 Francois Van Wyk
18 Owen Franks
19 Lewis Bean
20 Mitch Eadie
21 Connor Tupai
22 Piers Francis
23 Ahsee Tuala

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Saints lose two England internationals due to 'illness'