Saints centre Stephenson handed first derby start

CENTRE STAGE - Tom Stephenson starts for Saints against Tigers (Picture: Sharon Lucey)
CENTRE STAGE - Tom Stephenson starts for Saints against Tigers (Picture: Sharon Lucey)
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Tom Stephenson will start an east midlands derby for the first time after his impressive form was rewarded by Saints boss Jim Mallinder.

Stephenson, a 20-year-old Academy product, will line up in the centres for the eighth successive game, partnering England man Luther Burrell in the Northampton midfield.

James Wilson has also kept his place in the side after putting in a man of the match display in the 67-0 thrashing of Treviso in last weekend’s Champions Cup clash at Franklin’s Gardens.

Alex Waller, Christian Day and Samu Manoa all return to the starting 15 after beginning last Saturday’s game on the bench.

Lee Dickson and Ben Foden are part of a strong set of replacements for the crucial clash with a Leicester side who currently sit 10 points behind Aviva Premiership leaders Saints.

Tigers have opted to hand starts to Tom Croft and Tom Youngs at the Gardens after both were named on the bench for last weekend’s defeat at Toulon.

Influential Kiwi Brad Thorn is ruled out with a calf injury and powerhouse England centre Manu Tuilagi remains sidelined with a groin injury.

Saints: Wilson; K Pisi, Stephenson, Burrell, North; Myler, Fotuali’i; A Waller, Hartley (c), Ma’afu; Lawes, Day; Clark, Wood, Manoa.

Replacements: Haywood, E Waller, Denman, Dickinson, Dowson, Dickson, Elliott, Foden.

Leicester: Tait; Scully, Smith, Allen, Goneva; Williams, B Youngs; Ayerza, T Youngs, Cole; Kitchener, Parling; Croft, Salvi, Crane.

Replacements: Ghiraldini, Rizzo, Balmain, De Chaves, Barbieri, Harrison, Burns, Benjamin.