Northampton v Worcester: Teams
Greg Rawlinson has been named captain as Worcester kick-off their 2008-09 Guinness Premiership campaign against Northampton.
Last Updated: 05/09/08 3:23pm
Greg Rawlinson has been named captain as Worcester Warriors kick-off their 2008-09 Guinness Premiership campaign against newly-promoted Northampton Saints on Sunday.
New Zealand international Rawlinson leads the side in the absence of the injured Pat Sanderson (quad) as Worcester look to make a winning start at Franklin's Gardens.
Director of rugby Mike Ruddock has named a powerful line-up for the season opener with a number of players handed Guinness Premiership debuts for the club.
Australian international full back Chris Latham will make his first English top-flight appearance and is joined in the back division by new fly-half Matthew Jones.
Ruddock pairs Miles Benjamin and Rico Gear on the wings with Marcel Garvey (hip) ruled out of the televised game.
Netani Talei, Tom Wood and Kai Horstmann play in the back row with Sanderson ruled out and rated as doubtful for the clash with London Wasps next weekend. England Sevens ace James Collins is named on the replacements bench.
"We're disappointed to lose our captain as he is an inspirational figure," said Ruddock. "However, it's a long season and there is now an opportunity for other very talented players in his absence.
"Even without Pat it's a very strong back row for the Northampton game with players like Tom Wood, Netani Talei and Kai Horstmann who all featured regularly last season and have all performed to a very high level.
"A leadership group that has been developed at Warriors also means we are better prepared for a situation like this where our captain is unable to start.
"Greg Rawlinson has been a significant figure in this group for some time and we've no doubt that he will deliver strong leadership on the field and continue the high standards we set in that area.
"All the players are looking forward to the Northampton game and really making a positive start to the season in front of the cameras."
Saints director of rugby Jim Mallinder has handed debuts to six players ahead of his side's first Guinness Premiership match of the season.
Ignacio Fernandez Lobbe and Christian Day partner each other in the second row, Roger Wilson, Neil Best and Scott Gray start in the back row while England Saxon Lee Dickson wears the number nine shirt.
Meanwhile out wide the visit of Worcester will see the return of Scotland winger Sean Lamont to Saints colours.
"Worcester are one of the up and coming teams in England," said Mallinder.
"They finished last season strongly in the Premiership and reached the Challenge Cup final. Mike Ruddock has also brought in some high quality players over the summer. They also have a fantastic record at Franklin's Gardens in recent years, which shouldn't be forgotten.
"We've performed well in pre-season but that will not matter come Sunday afternoon. It is a massive challenge that the players and coaches are all excited about and motivated to meet. We have been working hard through the week and will give it our all against the Warriors."
Northampton: 15 Bruce Reihana (capt), 14 Chris Ashton, 13 Jon Clarke, 12 James Downey, 11 Sean Lamont, 10 Carlos Spencer, 9 Lee Dickson; 1 Soane Tonga'uiha 2 Paul Shields, 3 Euan Murray, 4 Ignacio Fernandez Lobbe, 5 Christian Day, 6 Neil Best, 7 Scott Gray, 8 Roger Wilson.
Replacements: 16 Dylan Hartley, 17 Tom Smith, 18 Alex Rae, 19 Mark Hopley, 20 Ben Foden, 21 Stephen Myler, 22 Joe Ansbro.
Worcester: 15 Chris Latham, 14 Rico Gear, 13 Dale Rasmussen, 12 Sam Tuitupou 11 Miles Benjamin, 10 Matthew Jones,9 Matt Powell; 1 Matt Mullan, 2 Aleki Lutui 3 Tevita Taumoepeau, 4 Greg Rawlinson (capt), 5 Craig Gillies, 6 Netani Talei 7 Tom Wood, 8 Kai Horstmann.
Replacements: 16 Chris Horsman, 17 Chris Fortey, 18 Will Bowley
19 James Collins, 20 Ryan Powell, 21 Loki Crichton, 22 Chris Pennell.