Amlin Challenge Cup: Saints set to rest big-name stars for Sale clash

Amlin Challenge Cup: Northampton Saints set to rest George North, Courtney Lawes, Tom Wood and Luther Burrell for Sale clash

Northampton Saints will rest their international heroes for Friday’s Amlin Challenge Cup quarter-final against Sale Sharks as they look to get their Premiership campaign back on track.

After two league defeats in as many weeks, including a surprise loss to Sale two weeks ago, Saints director of rugby Jim Mallinder has opted to rest Wales wing George North and England trio Courtney Lawes, Tom Wood and Luther Burrell, while captain Dylan Hartley misses out with injury.

Scrum-half Lee Dickson is the only player from this year’s Six Nations campaign to feature, with Mallinder making 12 changes from the controversial 22-16 defeat by east midlands rivals Leicester on Saturday with seven of the eight replacements from that match promoted to the starting XV.

Captain Phil Dowson retains his place in the back row with Ben Foden continuing at full-back and, with Stephen Myler out injured, Will Hooley continues at outside-half despite a poor showing against the Tigers.

Saints have seen their league fortunes take a hit in the aftermath of the Six Nations after losing their 11-match unbeaten streak to surrender the top of the table to Saracens and the Amlin Challenge Cup quarter-final offers little consolation after finishing second in their Heineken Cup pool in December.

With their sights firmly on achieving a top four place in the Premiership, Sale have also opted to rest key players with only three from the starting XV against Saints two weeks ago keeping their places.

Captain Dan Braid and winger Mark Cueto are both out with injuries picked up before last Friday’s win over Bath, while their hero in that match, Danny Cipriani, is left out of the 23.

The Sharks last reached the semi-finals in 2008, losing 36-14 to eventual winners Bath, but won the tournament in 2003 and 2005 during a six-year period of English success while the Saints defeated Bourgoin in 2009 for their second European title after winning the Heineken Cup in 2000.

Sale Sharks: Tom Arscott; Tom Brady, Andy Forsyth, Mark Jennings; Rob Miller; Nick Macleod, Will Cliff; Ross Harrison, Tommy Taylor, Henry Thomas, Andrei Ostrikov, Kirill Kulemin, James Gaskell (captain), Mark Easter, Viliami Fahiki.

Replacements: Marc Jones, Aston Croall, Tony Buckley, Jonathan Mills, Michael Paterson, Nathan Fowles, Joe Ford, Phil Mackenzie.

Northampton Saints: Ben Foden; Ken Pisi, James Wilson, Tom Stephenson, Fa’atoina Autagavaia; Will Hooley, Lee Dickson; Ethan Waller, Ross McMillan, Tom Mercey, Sam Dickinson, James Craig, Phil Dowson (captain), Ben Nutley, GJ van Velze.

Replacements: Matt Williams, Danny Hobbs-Awoyemi, Gareth Denman, Christian Day, Teimana Harrison; Kahn Fotuali’I, Dom Waldouck, Jamie Elliott.

Referee: Romain Poite (FFR)

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