Stephenson makes big comeback as Saints head to Bedford
Tom Stephenson will play his first game for seven months when he lines up at centre in Saints' friendly at Bedford Blues on Friday night (kick-off 7.45pm).
The 22-year-old suffered a broken leg in a pre-season fixture against Rotherham Titans at Franklin’s Gardens back in August.
But he has made quicker than expected return to fitness and is now ready and raring to go for the game against the Championship side at Goldington Road.
Saints are also boosted by the return of Luther Burrell and JJ Hanrahan.
Burrell has not played since suffering an ankle injury in the Champions Cup victory against Castres in January.
And Hanrahan is back after recovering from a hand problem picked up in the defeat at Montpellier in the same month.
Prop Campese Ma’afu is set to make his first club appearance since September after being named among the replacements.
Sam Dickinson will skipper the Saints team at Bedford, with wing Tom Collins and Canada prop Jake Ilnicki other notable inclusions in the starting 15.
Saints are using the match to give minutes to players ahead of the crucial east midlands derby against Leicester Tigers at the Gardens on March 25.
And Northampton will also be represented in the Bedford team with dual-registration duo Howard Packman, who starts at full-back, and lock Jordan Onojaife starting for the Blues.
Bedford Blues: Packman; Tapley, O’Conor, Le Bourgeois (c), Adamson; Sharp, James; Parilli-Ocampo, Fields, Judge; Howard, Onojaife; Taylor, Buggea, Hill.
Replacements: Robinson, Hallam, Cooper, Hodge, Tupai, Adams, Burns, Lewis, Dodge, Clements-Hill.
Saints: Wilson; Estelles, Burrell, Stephenson, Collins; Hanrahan, Kessell; E Waller, Clare, Ilnicki; Ribbans, Craig; Nutley, Ludlam, Dickinson (c).
Replacements: Fish, Ma’afu, Marshall, Denman, Ratuniyarawa, Moon, Allman, Dickson, Olver, Hutchinson, Furbank, Grayson.