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David Humphreys: Gloucester are much better than last trip to Northampton

Published 26/11/2015

Jonny May returns to the Gloucester line-up for Friday's Aviva Premiership game against Northampton
Jonny May returns to the Gloucester line-up for Friday's Aviva Premiership game against Northampton

Gloucester will return to the scene of a landslide league defeat when they tackle Aviva Premiership opponents Northampton on Friday.

But Gloucester rugby director David Humphreys believes that things are "very different" from when the west country club suffered a 53-6 defeat at Franklin's Gardens almost 15 months ago.

Wales wing George North scored three of Saints' eight tries on that occasion, which was also the first Premiership game in charge for Humphreys and Gloucester head coach Laurie Fisher.

"You can easily try and use that as a marker," Humphreys said.

"But I have no doubt that as a team, whether from a coaching or playing perspective, we are very different to where we were (then).

"It's hard to make any comparison in terms of where we are now to where we were then. We've put in a huge amount of hard work and we are a much better team.

"That hasn't always been reflected in our performances - we are still searching for the consistency that we need - but we're happy with where we are and looking forward to the challenge of going to Northampton."

Humphreys fields the same pack on duty for last week's impressive European Challenge Cup victory over La Rochelle in France, but three changes behind the scrum see starts for England wing Jonny May, full-back Rob Cook and scrum-half Willi Heinz.

On the bench, meanwhile, Argentina Test lock Mariano Galarza returns from suspension, and hooker Darren Dawidiuk is set for his first Premiership action of the season after recovering from a calf muscle injury.

Northampton, one place and one point behind Gloucester in 10th spot after suffering league defeats to Worcester, Sale Sharks and Saracens already this season, show a solitary change from the side that claimed an impressive European Champions Cup win against Glasgow five days ago.

Samoa international scrum-half Kahn Fotuali'i takes over from Lee Dickson, with England flanker Tom Wood handed the captaincy reins, and South Africa World Cup-winning lock Victor Matfield is among Northampton's replacements ahead of a possible Saints debut.

Saints number eight Sam Dickinson said: "Gloucester are in a similar position in the table to us, so I think we can expect an interesting game.

"Their forwards are strong and will try and dominate, so it's important we look to keep the ball away from them as much as possible.

"We are going to need a total performance across the team to win this.

"We proved a point in Europe. We have not started the season well, but I think the European results (against Glasgow and Scarlets) can help bring the momentum back."

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