Saints have home semi in their sights
May 7, 2010
Stephen Myler will start at fly-half for Saints © Getty Images
There's plenty to play for at the Madejski on Saturday as London Irish look to secure an against-the-odds place in the play-offs against Northampton Saints.
Victory for the Saints would secure a home semi-final against Saracens, although should Leicester see off Sarries then they can afford to relax and look forward to a Franklin's Gardens showdown.
For the Exiles the water is muddier, with their semi-final hopes hanging by a thread. They must pick up the points and hope that Bath slip up at home to Leeds and Wasps lose out away to Newcastle. They have been boosted by the return of winger Sailosi Tagicakibau, with the Samoan international joining Delon Armitage in the back-three.
In midfield, Elvis Seveali'i trades the No.13 jersey for No.12 in place of the injured Seilala Mapusua. The back-row sees two returns as Richard Thorpe and Chris Hala'Ufia join Steffon Armitage. Mike Catt has been named on the bench for his final playing appearance in an 18-year career.
"Undoubtedly, there is a lot riding on the outcome of tomorrow's match and any chance of reaching the play-offs will keep us firmly focused on winning," London Irish head coach Toby Booth said. "We are determined to battle all the way, secure the points and capitalise on any opportunities put in front of us."
The Saints have named a strong line-up after two narrow losses in recent weeks. Stephen Myler again sees off the challenge of Shane Geraghty at fly-half. Ben Foden, Chris Ashton and Bruce Reihana continue in the back-three while in the pack the experience of Ignacio Fernandez Lobbe has been preferred to the youthful exuberance of Courtney Lawes in the second-row.
"We will have to make a lot of improvement from our last game against Saracens. We didn't play well in that game, but the reaction of the players has been very positive and they have all worked hard in training," Saints boss Jim Mallinder said. "We are certainly paying a lot of respect to London Irish. They like to run the ball and have some powerful runners in the backs and the forwards, who they like to keep involved to put them over the gain line."
London Irish: Delon Armitage; Tom Homer; Jonathan Joseph; Elvis Seveali'i; Sailosi Tagicakibau; Ryan Lamb; Paul Hodgson (capt); Alex Corbisiero; Danie Coetzee, Faan Rautenbach; Kieran Roche; Matt Garvey; Richard Thorpe; Steffon Armitage; Chris Hala'Ufia
Replacements: Rob Herring; Dan Murphy; James Tideswell; Andy Perry; Jamie Gibson; Topsy Ojo; Mike Catt; Jamie Lennard
Northampton: Ben Foden; Chris Ashton, Jon Clarke, James Downey, Bruce Reihana; Stephen Myler, Lee Dickson; Soane Tonga'uiha, Dylan Hartley (capt), Euan Murray, Ignacio Fernandez Lobbe, Juandre Kruger, Phil Dowson, Neil Best, Roger Wilson
Replacements: Brett Sharman, Regardt Dreyer, Brian Mujati, Courtney Lawes, Mark Easter, Alan Dickens, Shane Geraghty, Joe Ansbro