Saints set to select another strong side as league opener at Sale edges ever closer

Saints are set to name another strong side for Sunday's televised home Premiership Rugby Cup clash with Doncaster Knights.
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It is the final chance for Phil Dowson's men to fine-tune ahead of the Gallagher Premiership season opener at Sale Sharks on October 15.

And with that in mind, the Saints boss will look to give his first-team regulars more minutes rather than resting them all in a competition Saints can't progress to the knockout stages in.

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"There will be a few changes just to balance it up with injuries and a few knocks you want to look after before the league begins," said Dowson, who saw his side come back from 42-19 down to beat Bath 43-42 at cinch Stadium at Franklin's Gardens last Saturday.

Sam Graham is set to be Saints' go-to guy at No.8 (photo by Malcolm Couzens/Getty Images)Sam Graham is set to be Saints' go-to guy at No.8 (photo by Malcolm Couzens/Getty Images)
Sam Graham is set to be Saints' go-to guy at No.8 (photo by Malcolm Couzens/Getty Images)

"Generally, we'll go pretty strong and try to be better than we were last week."

But Saints are set to have to do without Manny Iyogun as the prop suffered a groin injury in the early stages of last weekend's win.

"He's seeing a specialist so we think he will probably need surgery," Dowson said. "We're just waiting to find out what that looks like."

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Saints will again be without Juarno Augustus, who suffered a bicep injury in training last week.

And with Augustus set to be sidelined for more than a month, Saints are set to look to Sam Graham to fill the void at No.8.

Graham also had to withdraw from the team to face Bath last time out, but he is edging closer to fitness following a muscle injury.

"I spoke to Tom Pearson when we were recruiting him about whether he could play at No.8, and I'm sure he could, but there's limited number of players we have in that space (at flanker)," said Dowson, who selected Angus Scott-Young at No.8 last weekend.

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"Sam (Graham) is probably the next guy in that (No.8) hot-seat and hopefully he'll be ready to go this weekend."

Henry Pollock was the late replacement for Graham, who was due to start at seven against Bath, and the talented teenager delivered another impressive performance.

"He was very good," Dowson said.

"For him to step in and be up against a good Bath side, full of internationals and not look out of place, it speaks volumes for where he is as a person.

"There are parts of his game that he clearly needs to improve but I'm really impressed with how he's applied himself and he's a definite option (at No.8) as well."

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When asked whether a loan move was possible for Pollock this season, Dowson said: "There's lots of things that is dependent on, including whether Bedford would be interested in him because I know they've got a strong back row.

"Also, some of the physical stuff we need to get him through in terms of getting him up to speed.

"We need to manage him accordingly, and if that means game time at Bedford then hopefully he'd get a good run there, and I'm sure he'd be very impressive there, too."

Izaiha Moore-Aiono got some game time at No.8 for Saints during pre-season and in the early stages of the Premiership Rugby Cup competition, but he has now left the club.

"He's signed for Ampthill," Dowson confirmed.

"He was very impressive so we'll keep close tabs on him.

"He was excellent."