Francis to skipper Saints against Dragons

Piers Francis will captain Saints on Friday night (picture: Sharon Lucey)
Piers Francis will captain Saints on Friday night (picture: Sharon Lucey)

Piers Francis will skipper Saints in their pre-season clash with the Dragons at Rodney Parade on Friday night (kick-off 7.30pm).

Francis will start in the number 12 shirt, making his first appearance in Northampton colours since being involved with England on their summer tour of South Africa.

Dan Biggar, who came off the bench at half-time during Saints' 26-13 win at Ospreys last Saturday, starts at fly-half.

Another new signing, James Haskell, also gets the nod from the off, lining up in the No.6 shirt.

Mike Haywood did not feature at Brewery Field last weekend but he is back in action as he starts at hooker.

England star Courtney Lawes will be available from the bench, having watched the win against Ospreys from the stands in Bridgend.

Meanwhile, the Dragons include Richard Hibbard in their starting 15, with the former Gloucester hooker making his first appearance for his new club.

The home side have opted to make a total of six changes to the team that beat Ealing Trailfinders last weekend.

Brok Harris makes his first start for the Dragons since December 2017 and joins Hibbard and Ryan Bevington in the front row.

New Wales international Aaron Wainwright and Dragons stalwart Lewis Evans both start in to the back row in place of Huw Taylor and James Benjamin who drop to the bench.

Rynard Landman partners Matthew Screech at lock.

Behind the pack, the only different face in the starting back line is George Gasson, with the wing having come on as a replacement last Saturday.

“Northampton are a bigger test for us (than Ealing) and if you look at the conditions they played in against the Ospreys it was pretty wet and windy and hard to play, so we expect them to come with a real attacking mentality on Friday night," said Dragons boss Bernard Jackman.

“Chris Boyd, the new coach, played a really expansive style with the Hurricanes and they have recruited well so Friday night will be a step up for us and hopefully a good test for our boys and chance to put another good performance in.”

Dragons: J Williams, Goodchild, Warren, Dixon (c), Gasson, Lewis, R Williams, Bevington, Hibbard, Harris; Screech, Landman; Wainwright, Cudd, Evans.

Replacements Ellis, Lawrence, Fairbrother, Nansen, Taylor, Benjamin, Davies, Botica, Loots, Morgan, Howells, Talbot-Davies.

Saints: Collins; Sleightholme, Dingwall, Francis (c), Pisi; Biggar, Reinach; van Wyk, Haywood, Painter; Ratuniyarawa, Craig; Haskell, Ludlam, Harrison.

Replacements: Waller, Davis, Fish, Gray, Franks, Lawes, Ribbans, Gibson, Brussow, Eadie, Mitchell, Grayson, Tuitavake, Hutchinson, Worley, Emery.