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Northampton v Ulster preview

Ulster will take their 12-game unbeaten run to Northampton Saints in Friday's crucial Heineken Cup Pool 4 clash at Franklin's Gardens.

With the current RaboDirect PRO12 leaders having already secured impressive victories over Castres and Glasgow thus far in the Pool, they will be looking to extend their great run of form.

Saints, meanwhile, will be looking to bounce back from their 21-16 away defeat to Castres in their last Pool game after their hard-fought victory over the Scots at home in their tournament opener.

Ulster coach Mark Anscombe has named a solid starting XV with a number of players who were rested for the trip to Scarlets on Sunday returning to the side.

Ruan Pienaar, Paddy Wallace and Jared Payne have been named at scrum-half, inside centre and full-back respectively.

Tommy Bowe, will line out on the right wing for his 50th Heineken Cup appearance, after having been on bench duty last weekend. This will see Andrew Trimble switch to the left at the expense of new Ireland cap Craig Gilroy.

Up front, Ireland internationals Rory Best and Tom Court replace Rob Herring and Callum Black in the front-row alongside John Afoa. Captain Johann Muller is joined in the second row by Dan Tuohy, his regular partner.

If he takes to the field at any time during Friday's game, Ricky Lutton could make his Heineken Cup debut. The 26-year-old development prop has made one previous appearance - last month as a substitute in the PRO12 win over Edinburgh.

Both sides are currently showing consistent domestic form, with Northampton sitting in third spot in the Premiership standings, whilst Ulster have a nine point cushion at the top of the PRO12.

However, Northampton fare worse against teams from Ireland than any other nation in this tournament, having lost eight of 12 matches against Irish sides.

Kick-off is at 8pm.

Northampton Saints: 15 Ben Foden, 14 Ken Pisi, 13 George Pisi, 12 Dom Waldouck, 11 Jamie Elliott, 10 Ryan Lamb, 9 Martin Roberts, 8 Gerrit-Jan van Velze, 7 Tom Wood, 6 Calum Clark, 5 Courtney Lawes, 4 Samu Manoa, 3 Brian Mujati, 2 Dylan Hartley, 1 Soane Tonga'uiha.

Replacements: 16 Mikey Haywood, 17 Alex Waller, 18 Paul Doran-Jones, 19 Mark Sorenson, 20 Phil Dowson, 21 Lee Dickson, 22 Steve Myler, 23 Tom May.

Ulster: 15 Jared Payne, 14 Tommy Bowe, 13 Darren Cave, 12 Paddy Wallace, 11 Andrew Trimble, 10 Paddy Jackson, 9 Ruan Pienaar, 8 Roger Wilson , 7 Chris Henry, 6 Iain Henderson, 5 Dan Tuohy, 4 Johann Muller (c), 3 John Afoa, 2 Rory Best, 1 Tom Court.

Replacements: 16 Nigel Brady, 17 Callum Black, 18 Ricky Lutton, 19 Robbie Diack, 20 Nick Wiliams, 21 Paul Marshall, 22 Luke Marshall, 23 Craig Gilroy.