Symons makes long-awaited return as Saints face Wasps

Andy Symons is ready to return
Andy Symons is ready to return

Andy Symons will make his long-awaited return from an ACL injury when Saints square up to Wasps in a Premiership Rugby Cup clash at Franklin's Gardens on Saturday (kick-off 3pm).

Symons moved to Northampton from Gloucester in the summer of 2018 but was only able to make three competitive appearances during his first season at the club.

That was because he sustained a serious knee injury in the defeat at Bath last September, ruling him out for a full year.

But the centre is now fully fit again and will start in the 12 shirt against Wasps this weekend.

He forms a centre partnership with Rory Hutchinson, who has recovered from a slight shoulder problem.

Hutchinson will be bidding to bounce back after being surprisingly omitted from Scotland's World Cup squad.

Saints have made a total of nine changes for this weekend's game following the 39-18 defeat at Sale Sharks last Saturday.

Only Lewis Bean, Alex Coles, Tom Wood, Mitch Eadie, James Grayson and Ollie Sleightholme remain from the starting 15 at the AJ Bell Stadium.

Henry Taylor comes in to make his first start for Saints, having joined the club from Saracens during the summer.

Alex Waller is back at loosehead and will skipper the side, with Teimana Harrison dropping to the bench.

JJ Tonks is also among the replacements as the former Gloucester back row forward looks to make his first competitive appearance for Saints.

Scrum-half James Mitchell is also in line for his Northampton debut.

But Harry Mallinder (knee), Dylan Hartley (knee), Alex Mitchell (knee), Reece Marshall (hamstring), Mikey Haywood (knee), Jamie Gibson (shoulder), Heinrich Brüssow (ankle) and Paddy Ryan (knee) are on the injury list.

For Wasps, summer signings Paolo Odogwu and Jeff Toomaga-Allen are set to make their debuts.

Odogwu will start while All Blacks tighthead Toomaga-Allen, who worked with Saints boss Chris Boyd at the Hurricanes, is among the replacements.

Another new signing, Sam Wolstenholme, is picked at No.9 for his first start for the club and will link up with Jacob Umaga, who impressed from the tee last weekend.

Michael Le Bourgeois will start in the centres for the first time since December 2018, alongside Academy graduate Sam Spink who is set for a first first-team appearance since February 2018.

Last season’s top try-scorer Josh Bassett will be on the left wing, while Marcus Watson is named at full-back.

In the pack, Tom Cruse starts at hooker with Georgia international Zurabi Zhvania at loosehead and summer signing Biyi Alo - the latter is set for his first start for the club at tighthead.

Tim Cardall and Charlie Matthews keep their places in the second row.

England international Brad Shields will skipper the side from the back row, which includes Springboks ace Nizaam Carr and new signing and Tonga international Sione Vailanu – another who is set for his first start for Wasps.

Owain James in named among the replacements and is in line for his first appearance since November 2018, while Jack Willis and Tom West are also added to the squad.

Saints: Collins; Sleightholme, Hutchinson, Symons, Naiyaravoro; Grayson, Taylor; Waller (c), Fish, Painter; Ribbans, Bean; Coles, Wood, Eadie.
Replacements: van Vuuren, Franks, Hill, Tonks, Harrison, J Mitchell, Dingwall, Olowofela.

Wasps: Watson; Odogwu, Spink, Le Bourgeois, Bassett; Umaga, Wolstenholme; Zhvania, Cruse, Alo; Cardall, Matthews; Shields (c), Carr, Vailanu.
Replacements: Oghre, West, Toomaga-Allen, Flament, Miller, James.