9:01am Friday 24th January 2014
NORTHAMPTON may be heading to Rodney Parade without their stars but the Saints will still be looking to move a step closer to a spot in the LV= Cup semi-finals, writes Chris Kirwan.
The likes of George North, Dylan Hartley, Tom Wood, Courtney Lawes, Luther Burrell sit out the encounter with Newport Gwent Dragons ahead of the Six Nations.
In fact, the Saints will even be without props Alex Waller and Tom Mercey, flanker Calum Clark and back row Sam Dickinson who will feature for England Saxons against the Irish Wolfhounds on Saturday evening.
Nonetheless, Northampton have impressed despite ringing the changes so far in the development competition, beating Gloucester 33-6 and London Irish 38-19 to take command of Pool Four.
The Aviva Premiership is the priority for Northampton – who have never won the league – but winning a fifth major piece of silverware would be a welcome boost for boss Jim Mallinder, who is relishing seeing some young guns in action.
"It's the end of a really tough run in the Premiership and Heineken Cup meaning the international lads get a bit of a rest before their duties start over the Six Nations," he said.
"It's great to have so many players representing the club and their absence also presents a good opportunity for some of our younger lads and some of the bench players to come back into the first team and play some rugby.
"We want to win every game we play and every competition we are in and the LV= Cup is no different.
"We view it as a valuable competition and of course it also leads back into the Premiership, where we'll need these lads playing well to maintain the momentum we've started."
The Dragons have beaten Northampton once in four attempts and were overpowered 30-20 when the teams met at Rodney Parade last season despite a hat-trick by wing Tonderai Chavhanga.
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