Team Announcement: Bristol Bears Vs Northampton Saints
Joe Batley returns to the Bears’ starting lineup for Friday night’s Premiership round 19 clash with Northampton Saints at Ashton Gate (7.45pm KO).
The lock returns from injury to partner Chris Vui in the second row, replacing Joe Joyce who sustained an injury against Bath, with Pat Lam naming an otherwise unchanged starting XV following the derby victory at The Rec.
Steven Luatua is back in the matchday squad following his return from New Zealand this week, taking his place among the system players as the only other change to the squad.
The Bears are targeting a third successive league win against the high-flying Saints, who sit third in the Gallagher Premiership.
Bristol Bears team to face Northampton Saints at Ashton Gate on Friday night (7.45pm KO):
15. Charles Piutau (73 apps), 14. Siva Naulago (21 apps), 13. Semi Radradra (48 apps), 12. James Williams (9 apps), 11. Gabriel Ibitoye (11 apps), 10. AJ MacGinty (18 apps), 9. Harry Randall (c) (95 apps); 1. Yann Thomas (104 apps), 2. Harry Thacker (94 apps), 3. Max Lahiff (61 apps), 4. Chris Vui (111 apps), 5. Joe Batley (35 apps), 6. Sam Jeffries (57 apps), 7. Fitz Harding (45 apps), 8. Magnus Bradbury (16 apps).
System players: 16. Bryan Byrne (42 apps), 17. Jake Woolmore (127 apps), 18. George Kloska (22 apps), 19. Steven Luatua (107 apps), 20. Jake Heenan (88 apps), 21. Andy Uren (152 apps), 22. Sam Bedlow (58 apps), 23. Ioan Lloyd (73 apps).
Unavailable: Will Capon, Ellis Genge, Kyle Sinckler, Joe Joyce, John Hawkins, Ed Holmes, Will Porter, Callum Sheedy, Joe Jenkins, Piers O’Conor, Deago Bailey, Rich Lane.
Sam Matavesi returns from injury for Northampton Saints this weekend as Director of Rugby Phil Dowson makes seven changes to his line-up for the Gallagher Premiership visit to Bristol.
The men in Black, Green and Gold lock horns with the Bears on Friday evening (kick-off: 7.45pm, live on BT Sport) hoping to extend a three-match winning run – with recent victories over play-off rivals Leicester Tigers, Sale Sharks and Gloucester Rugby propelling Saints up to third in the league table.
Saints have won on three of five visits to Ashton Gate Stadium, and beaten the Bears the last three times the sides have met, but Bristol are in good form themselves and have not lost on home soil since Round 9 of the Premiership season.
Fraser Dingwall once again skippers Northampton from outside centre in an unchanged midfield pairing, with Rory Hutchinson taking his place inside him.
But elsewhere there are three changes to the back-line which ran in six tries last weekend. Fin Smith comes into the No.10 jersey to partner scrum-half Callum Braley, George Hendy steps in at fullback to make his first Premiership appearance since October in place of the injured James Ramm, while Courtnall Skosan joins Tom Collins on the wings for Saints with Tommy Freeman retained on England duty this week.
Up front, Saints opt for a new-look front row with Fiji international Matavesi returning to the side from injury for the first time since New Year’s Day, and props Ethan Waller and Alfie Petch packing down either side of him.
Lukhan Salakaia-Loto starts in the second row, with Alex Moon keeping his place in the engine room, while the back row is unchanged from last weekend’s win over the Cherry and Whites as Alex Coles, Angus Scott-Young, and No.8 Sam Graham will look to control the breakdown.
Amongst the replacements for Saints, the likes of Tom Cruse, Paul Hill and Alex Waller will add plenty of ballast while James Grayson and Aaron Hinkley will also be hoping to make an impact for the visitors off the bench.
BRISTOL BEARS vs NORTHAMPTON SAINTS
Gallagher Premiership Rugby, Round 19
Friday 3 March 2023
Ashton Gate Stadium
15 George Hendy
14 Courtnall Skosan
13 Fraser Dingwall (c)
12 Rory Hutchinson
11 Tom Collins
10 Fin Smith
9 Callum Braley
1 Ethan Waller
2 Sam Matavesi
3 Alfie Petch
4 Lukhan Salakaia-Loto
5 Alex Moon
6 Alex Coles
7 Angus Scott-Young
8 Sam Graham
16 Tom Cruse
17 Alex Waller
18 Paul Hill
19 Karl Wilkins
20 Aaron Hinkley
21 Jake Garside
22 James Grayson
23 Tom Litchfield
Not considered for selection:
Juarno Augustus, George Furbank, Mike Haywood, Danny Hobbs-Awoyemi, Emmanuel Iyogun, Tom James, Matt Proctor, James Ramm and Ollie Sleightholme.
Tommy Freeman, Courtney Lawes, Lewis Ludlam, Alex Mitchell and David Ribbans (all England).