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Jim Mallinder challenges Northampton to atone for Leinster mauling against Sale

Jim Mallinder has challenged Northampton to atone for last weekend's nine-try Leinster mauling against Sale Sharks on Friday night.

George North will again sit out for the Aviva Premiership clash at Franklin's Gardens, despite Northampton earlier in the week having predicted his return to action.

The 24-year-old has not played since landing heavily following an aerial challenge in Saints' 19-11 loss to Leicester on December 3.

Saints' rugby director Mallinder admitted "we let the club down" in the 60-13 Champions Cup hammering at the hands of Leinster in Dublin - and has now demanded an immediate response.

"Interestingly it's not been that difficult to find a reaction, because we all know that we let the club down," said Mallinder.

"You don't want to go out ever to play as we did, we got well beaten by a better side.

"But we know that we can improve, and that's what we've got to do.

"In a way we've got to put that behind us, we've not gone through it with a tooth comb.

"I'm really disappointed, really disappointed for our fans, who made that effort to get out there and support the team.

"But there's only one thing we can do now, and as players and as coaches we've just got to pull together, get out there and put in a performance that we and the fans can be proud of."

The Concussion Management Review Group (CMRG) ruled on Wednesday that Northampton should not have let North return to the field after his head injury in the Leicester clash on December 3.

Northampton have avoided any sanction, but Saints' decision to keep North wrapped in cotton wool is at odds with their expectation earlier in the week that he would return to action.

Prop Alex Waller will make his 200th Northampton appearance at just 26 years old, while Argentine wing Juan Pablo Estelles will make his Aviva Premiership debut on the left wing.

Louis Picamoles, Christian Day, Courtney Lawes and club captain Tom Wood all return to the starting line-up, as Saints bid to claw their way up the league table from their lowly ninth position. They are without suspended England captain Dylan Hartley.

Sale boss Steve Diamond has made just one change to his starting XV, with Mike Phillips slotting in at scrum-half.

Josh Beaumont and Kieran Longbottom will feature from the bench, with recent rugby league convert Denny Solomona starting on the right wing.

Diamond admitted in a clash of two out-of-sorts teams the winner will be wholly decided by attitude and application on the night.

"You've got two teams coming together with no form on Friday night, so whoever turns up and plays well will win the game," said Diamond.


From Belfast Telegraph