Aviva Premiership: Northampton host Leicester as Saracens make short trip to Wasps
Last Updated: 29/03/14 8:01am
George Pisi: Back in Northampton's starting XV for the derby battle this weekend
The East Midlands derby between Northampton and Leicester is the highlight of Saturday's Aviva Premiership action.
The two title hopefuls, who go into the fixture off the back of contrasting results, will go toe-to-toe in a heavyweight clash that will be played out in front of a full house at Franklin's Garden.
While the Tigers roared against Exeter last time out, the Saints were sunk by Sale Sharks. Director of rugby Jim Mallinder has responded to that reverse by making three changes, including bringing George Pisi and Kahn Fotuali'i.
Up front Phil Dowson is included in the back row, with England international Tom Wood moving to number eight. Ethan Waller rejoins the replacements' bench as Northampton look to avoid a hat-trick of defeats, having also been beaten in the LV= Cup final.
Leicester, meanwhile, having gained 24 league points from their last six matches and have not been beaten in domestic action this year. Mathew Tait returns at full-back for the visitors and there is a place among the replacements for back-rower Pablo Matera.
Harlequins are boosted by the return of England trio Mike Brown, Danny Care and Chris Robshaw as they look to keep themselves in the play-off race with victory in another local derby, as they host London Irish.
Care teams up with his regular half-back partner Nick Evans, Luke Wallace switches to blindside flanker and Dave Ward starts at hooker for Quins, who will be desperate to bounce back from their 39-17 loss to Saracens at Wembley.
Irish, who are in 10th position in the table, welcome back scrum-half Tomas O'Leary to their starting XV, while hooker Jimmy Stevens gets the nod in the front row ahead of David Paice.
Following the win over Quins that saw a new record attendance for a club game, Sarries have freshened up their side for another capital clash against Wasps.
Charlie Hodgson and Neil de Kock both get starting berths in the half-back roles, meaning Owen Farrell and Richard Wigglesworth drop to the bench, plus there are places in the team for hooker Jamie George, prop Matt Stevens and flanker Kelly Brown.
The hosts have also freshened things up for the game at Adam's Park, with boss Dai Young making six alterations to the side that scraped a win against relegation favourites Worcester last Friday.
Loan signing James Short is unable to play against his parent club, so Jonah Holmes comes in on the wing. Tom Howe is selected on the other flank, plus Tom Palmer and Simon McIntyre are named in the pack.
Joe Launchbury and Matt Mullan are rested as part of the EPS agreement as Wasps look to become just the second side to inflict an away defeat on Saracens, the other being their title rivals Northampton, back in round six.
Saturday's other top-flight fixture is Exeter hosting Gloucester, with the visitors naming England centre Billy Twelvetrees as captain for the clash at Sandy Park.
The Cherry and Whites also have fellow internationals Jonny May and Ben Morgan returning, but Exeter are without England winger Jack Nowell due to a shoulder injury suffered against Leicester.
They do, though, have Tom Johnson back in their pack for a Chiefs team that are looking for just their second league win in their last eight outings.