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Aviva Premiership Venue: Franklin’s Gardens Date: Saturday, 23 December Kick-off: 15:00 GMTCoverage: Live score updates on BBC local radio and on the BBC Sport websiteSkipper Dylan Hartley returns for Northampton in their first Premiership game since Jim Mallinder’s sacking.Courtney Lawes, Api Ratuniyarawa and Campese Ma’afu start in the pack, while Luther Burrell returns to the backlineInjuries to Phil Dollman and Lachie Turner mean England centre Henry Slade starts at full-back for Exeter.
Sam Hill replaces him, Will Chudley starts at scrum-half while Harry Williams, Jonny Hill and fit-again Dave Ewers come into the pack.Northampton have won just one of their last 11 matches in all competitions, a record that led to Saints parting company with director of rugby Mallinder on 12 December. Premiership champions Exeter have only won once at Franklins Gardens since they were promoted to the top flight in 2010. Northampton Saints interim head coach Alan Dickens told BBC Radio Northampton: “I’ll do it [the job] with enthusiasm and try to get that to brush off on the rest of the people around here.”I am absolutely positive that if we get a win we’ll be back and we’ll be where we need to be.”It’s an opportunity and we need to put it right – that’s my job. The club have asked me to do something and I’m going to give it my best shot.”Exeter head coach Ali Hepher told BBC Sport:”They’ll perform, I think they would have performed either which way.”It’s a big game for them at Christmas, what we’ve got to focus on is ourselves and make sure we hit the pitch in top order.”We’ve only won there the once, we have underperformed there as well ,so it’s been frustrating at times.”Northampton: Mallinder; Tuala, Horne, Burrell, Foden; Francis, Groom; Ma’afu, Hartley (capt), Ford-Robinson, Paterson, Ratuniyarawa, Lawes, Gibson, Harrison Replacements: Haywood, van Wyk, Hill, Ribbans, Wood, Reinach, Stephenson, PisiExeter: Slade; Nowell, Whitten, Hill, Woodburn; Gareth Steenson (capt), Chudley; Moon, Cowan-Dickie, Williams, Skinner, Hill, Ewers, Armand, S SimmondsReplacements: Yeandle, Rimmer, Holmes, Lees, Waldrom, Townsend, J Simmonds, Short
Source: Devon BBC