Belfast Telegraph

Home Sport Rugby

Hartley on bench for Saints

Northampton have named Dylan Hartley on the replacements' bench for Saturday's Aviva Premiership final against Saracens at Twickenham.

The England hooker, who was sent off in last season's Premiership final loss to Leicester, has been sidelined since suffering a shoulder injury two months ago.

But he now looks set to play a part in the end-of-season showpiece as Saints target their first title success.

And it could also mean him heading to New Zealand early next week, where England face a three-Test series against the All Blacks.

Players involved in this weekend's final will not be available for the first Test in Auckland on June 7.

The England squad flew to New Zealand earlier this week, with a second group from Northampton and Saracens setting off some 48 hours after the final. The second Test is on June 14.

England flanker Tom Wood, who captained Northampton to Amlin Challenge Cup final success against Bath last week, continues as skipper, leading a side that shows just two changes from seven days ago.

Scrum-half Kahn Fotuali'i replaces Lee Dickson, while prop Salesi Ma'afu returns from suspension and starts instead of Tom Mercey.

England prop Mako Vunipola's hopes of touring New Zealand have seemingly receded, though, after he was ruled out of the Saracens team due to a knee injury.

Vunipola is replaced by Richard Barrington, who packs down alongside Schalk Brits and Matt Stevens in the front-row. It will be Stevens' final Saracens game before he joins the Sharks in South Africa.

Saracens skipper Steve Borthwick also bows out this weekend, making his 265th and final Premiership appearance before retirement. He will be partnered in the second-row by Mouritz Botha.

In the back division, a rotational switch sees scrum-half Neil de Kock starting instead of Richard Wigglesworth.


From Belfast Telegraph