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Northampton Saints v Bath - Teams and Prediction

PREMIERSHIP FINAL: Northampton loose forward Courtney Lawes will aim to bow out of the English game as a Premiership champion when he plays his last game for the club in Saturday’s Final against Bath at Twickenham.

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The 35-year-old former England captain has made nearly 300 appearances for Northampton, the only club he has represented in his senior career, but this weekend’s showpiece match will mark his last game for the Saints before he joins French side Brive next season on a two-year deal.

Northampton ended Saracens’ reign as Premiership champions thanks to a hard-fought 22-20 play-off semifinal win last weekend in front of their home crowd at Franklin’s Gardens.

Now Lawes, who called time on his 105-cap England career after last year’s Rugby World Cup in France, returns to a ground he knows well from his time as an international forward.

“It’s perfect [playing at a sold-out Twickenham],” he told the BBC.

“I couldn’t picture a better way to finish.”

Northampton, who finished top of the regular season table, will be bidding for their first Premiership title since they last reached the Final in 2014 – when Lawes starred in a 24-20 win over Saracens

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“You want to enjoy these weeks as they don’t come around very often,” he said.

“It is just about going out there and doing what we’ve been doing all season. We have such a good team that is working well together and is so cohesive.”

By opting to continue his career in France, the versatile Lawes, who can play at both flank and lock, has ruled out any prospect of an England comeback as Rugby Football Union (RFU) regulations prevent players at overseas clubs being considered for Test selection.

But the British and Irish Lions have no such rule meaning Lawes, who has already been on two tours with the combined side, remains eligible for their 2025 trip to Australia.

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“The moment I feel I am not getting better at rugby is the moment I will retire,” Lawes said.

“I don’t know if I can get better now but I am going to try.”

– ‘From hope to belief’ –

For Bath, Saturday’s match also represents a return to the big time.

Just two years ago, they finished bottom of the table.

But the six-times English champions between 1989 and 1996 in the pre-Premiership era, have been a transformed team since Scotland flyhalf Finn Russell joined after the World Cup.

Their appearance in the Final is also testament to the work of South African coach Johann van Graan, who arrived from Irish province Munster in 2022.

“We have gone as a team from hope to belief. We’re not done yet. We have got one more week,” Van Graan said after Bath’s semifinal win over Sale.

“There was a vision put in place from the first day, but there was never a timeline.”

He insisted the mercurial Russell had bought into his overall plan for Bath.

“From Finn’s side, it is not about Finn, it is about the squad. He is a very important player for us, but what we’ve done well is trust the squad.”

Undercover security will be in place at Twickenham on Saturday as officials try to prevent a repeat of protests during last season’s Premiership Final when Just Stop Oil demonstrators caused a brief delay by running onto the pitch.

“Last year was regrettable,” said Rob Calder, Premiership’s chief growth officer.

“The RFU are clearly responsible for anything that happens of that nature so they are all over it.

“Fingers crossed there won’t be anything like that again.”

Prediction

@rugby365com: Northampton by four points.

Teams

Northampton Saints: 15 George Furbank, 14 Tommy Freeman, 13 Burger Odendaal, 12 Fraser Dingwall, 11 Ollie Sleightholme, 10 Fin Smith, 9 Alex Mitchell, 8 Juarno Augustus, 7 Tom Pearson, 6 Courtney Lawes (captain), 5 Alex Coles, 4 Alex Moon, 3 Trevor Davison, 2 Curtis Langdon, 1 Alex Waller.
Replacements: 16 Sam Matavesi, 17 Emmanuel Iyogun, 18 Elliot Millar Mills, 19 Temo Mayanavanua, 20 Sam Graham, 21 Lewis Ludlam, 22 Tom James, 23 George Hendy.

Bath: 15 Matt Gallagher, 14 Joe Cokanasiga, 13 Ollie Lawrence, 12 Cameron Redpath, 11 Will Muir, 10 Finn Russell, 9 Ben Spencer (captain), 8 Alfie Barbeary, 7 Sam Underhill, 6 Ted Hill, 5 Charlie Ewels, 4 Quinn Roux, 3 Thomas du Toit, 2 Tom Dunn, 1 Beno Obano.
Replacements: 16 Niall Annett, 17 Juan Schoeman, 18 Will Stuart, 19 Elliott Stooke, 20 Josh Bayliss, 21 Louis Schreuder, 22 Orlando Bailey, 23 Miles Reid.

Date: Saturday, July 8
Venue: Twickenham Stadium, London
Kick-off: 15.00 (14.00 GMT)
Referee: Christophe Ridley
Assistant referees: Luke Pearce, Anthony Woodthorpe
TMO: Tom Foley

Source: AFP

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