Northampton v Benetton: Harry Mallinder to make Saints comeback

Harry Mallinder
Mallinder has scored eight tries in 50 previous appearances for Saints
Champions Cup Pool One: Northampton v Benetton
Date: Sunday 12 January Time: 13:00 GMT Venue: Franklin's Gardens

Harry Mallinder will make his first Northampton appearance in over a year, following a knee injury, in Sunday's Champions Cup meeting with Benetton.

The 23-year-old, who has not appeared for Saints since a Challenge Cup defeat by Clermont Auvergne in October 2018, will play on the wing.

Taqele Naiyaravoro starts after coming off the bench to score a dramatic winning try against Wasps.

The return of England back row Lewis Ludlam is one of another seven changes.

Prop Francois van Wyk, second row Api Ratuniyarawa and hooker Sam Matavesi come into the pack, while Henry Taylor and James Grayson are a new-look half-back partnership.

Fraser Dingwall is at outside centre with Tom Collins suspended following his red card in the win over Wasps.

Benetton will be steered from fly-half by Italy international Tommaso Allan, who started at 10 in all three of the Azzurri's games at last year's Rugby World Cup.

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Northampton: Furbank; Mallinder, Dingwall, Hutchinson, Naiyaravoro; Grayson, Taylor; Van Wyk, Matavesi, Hill, Ratuniyarawa Ribbans, Lawes, Ludlam, Harrison.

Replacements: Fish. B Franks, O Franks, Coles, Eadie, Reinach, Symons, Sleightholme.

Benetton: Hayward; Sarto, Benvenuti, Sgarbi, Ioane; Allan, Duvenage; Quaglio, Faiva, Pasquali, Zanni, Ruzza, Lazzaroni, Pettinelli, Barbini.

Replacements: Makelara, Zani, Traore, Snyman, Fuser, Trussardi, Rizzi, Zanon.

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Northampton, currently second in Pool One on nine points, will be chasing a bonus-point victory as they attempt to secure one of three 'best runner-up' spots and progress from the pool stages for the first time since 2016.

The Saints squeaked to a 35-32 win in their away meeting with the Italians in November courtesy of an 85th minute Dan Biggar penalty.

Benetton suffered a 67-0 defeat on their last Champions Cup visit to Franklin's Gardens back in 2014, but look a tougher prospect this time around after beating French side Lyon, currently second in the Top 14, last time out.

Pool table

Match stats

  • Northampton have won all 10 of their matches against Italian opposition in European competition, averaging 39 points per game.
  • Northampton boast the best ruck success rate in this season's Heineken Champions Cup of 98%.
  • Benetton will be trying for their first back-to-back victories in the tournament since 2004-05.