December 6 2013 Latest news:
By James Cunliffe
Friday, October 4, 2013
In-form Billy Vunipola will not face former club London Wasps tomorrow but Chris Wyles believes unbeaten Saracens can shuffle their deck in numerous ways because the squad is the strongest he’s played in.
Speaking before today’s team announcement, that saw no place in the 23-man squad to face their London rivals for the club’s summer back row signing, Wyles conceded that the England international would have been “targeted” by his old colleagues.
But that won’t be the case now as Ernst Joubert preferred to Vunipola in the No.8 role as the England international makes way for the first time this term.
The South African, who is also deputising as captain for the rested Steve Borthwick, is joined in a new-look back row by openside flanker Jackson Wray, who starts for the first time this term. At blindside, Will Fraser also returns to make his maiden appearance this season after recovering from a shoulder injury.
Elsewhere in the pack, James Johnston starts his first game of the season at tighthead prop, and he is joined by the returning Rhys Gill and Jamie George in the front row, while Alastair Hargreaves partners George Kruis at lock.
In the backs Neil de Kock replaces Richard Wigglesworth at scrum-half and Alex Goode deputises at fly-half for benched Owen Farrell, while Ben Ransom starts at full-back and Michael Tagicakibau comes in for David Strettle on the left wing.
Wyles, who partners Joel Tomkins at centre, said: “We’ve strengthened the squad in the summer and it’s probably the best one we’ve had since I’ve been involved.
“It’s going to be the entire squad that will give us the ability to win the Premiership.
“We have trust in all our players to be able to do that job for us.
“Tim Streather, Michael Tagicakibau, James Johnstone, Billy and all of the players that we’ve brought in have strengthened the squad to a point that we needed [which is] to compete in the Heineken Cup and the Premiership.
“To do so in both those competitions is very difficult, so you have to have depth at all levels.
“This squad has that.”
Tomorrow’s opponents Wasps struggled in the first three weeks of the campaign, only claiming their first victory against basement boys Worcester Warriors last Saturday.
This week the Adams Park side have bolstered their ranks with the signing of USA international centre Andrew Suniula and the arrival of wing William Helu.
Wyles said: “Wasps have [winger] Tom Varndell injured and we’ve managed to take on Billy [Vunipola], so they’ve lost some key players, but it comes down to us focusing on ourselves.
“They are rebuilding again but there is never an easy game and we can’t take any team lightly.”
Yet the USA full-back insists that Saracens, who have never lost a regular league game at Allianz Park, are in confident mood.
He added: “It’s been a brilliant start to the season but at the same time we can’t get too carried away because it is an incredibly long season.
“Having said that, the most pleasing thing is how we’ve dealt with some adversity in these games and bounced back to play the way we know we can.
“We are in a great situation and there’s a great atmosphere in the squad right now.”