Northampton Saints v Wasps: Confirmed team news for Sunday's game at Franklin's Gardens

Piers Francis will be back in action this weekendPiers Francis will be back in action this weekend
Piers Francis will be back in action this weekend
Piers Francis will make his return from injury when Saints resume their Gallagher Premiership season against Wasps at Franklin's Gardens on Sunday (kick-off 3pm).

Francis has not played since being stretchered off on his 50th Saints appearance against London Irish back in January.

But he is fit and raring to go for the restart, returning from concussion to start at inside centre.

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Matt Proctor is only on the bench and Rory Hutchinson is not in the matchday squad, meaning Fraser Dingwall partners Francis.

With Cobus Reinach having left Saints for Montpellier this summer, Alex Mitchell gets the expected start at scrum-half, lining up alongside fly-half Dan Biggar.

George Furbank is at full-back, with Harry Mallinder and Ahsee Tuala on the wings.

Taqele Naiyaravoro adds firepower from the bench, just as he did when scoring the winning try in the 35-31 success at Wasps back in January.

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Wing Ollie Sleightholme misses out with a hamstring injury, while scrum-half Connor Tupai has a wrist problem.

Those two are on the injury list alongside experienced forwards Alex Waller (Achilles) and Tom Wood (pulmonary embolism).

It means Francois van Wyk starts at loosehead, with Mike Haywood and Paul Hill joining him in the front row.

Api Ratuniyarawa returns from possibly the longest four-game suspension in history - he missed the four matches before the season was halted for five months due to the Covid-19 pandemic- as he partners fit-again David Ribbans in the second row.

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Courtney Lawes is at six, while Lewis Ludlam and Teimana Harrison take up their usual roles at seven and eight, with Harrison skippering the side.

Danny Hobbs-Awoyemi is set to make his first appearance for Saints since returning to the club this summer as the former London Irish prop is named among the replacements.

Alex Coles and JJ Tonks, two young forwards who have impressed this season, are also on the bench.

With so many games to fit into a hectic schedule before the Premiership play-offs in October, Saints fans will be buoyed by the depth of the squad, with plenty of top players not playing this weekend.

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Jamie Gibson, Tom Collins, James Grayson, Ehren Painter, Alex Moon and new signings Nick Isiekwe, Nick Auterac, Shaun Adendorff and Tom James are among those primed for action in the weeks and months to come.

Saints: Furbank; Mallinder, Dingwall, Francis, Tuala; Biggar, Mitchell; van Wyk, Haywood, Hill; Ribbans, Ratuniyarawa; Lawes, Ludlam, Harrison (c).

Replacements: Matavesi, Hobbs-Awoyemi, Franks, Coles, Tonks, Taylor, Proctor, Naiyaravoro.

Wasps: Minozzi; Kibirige, Fekitoa, Gopperth, Bassett; Umaga, Robson; Harris, Taylor, Brookes; Launchbury (c), Rowlands; Willis, Young, Shields.

Replacements: Oghre, West, Toomaga-Allen, Gaskell, Vailanu, Vellacott, Sopoaga, Mills.