March 8 2014 Latest news:
Thursday, February 27, 2014
England international winger David Strettle makes his 100th appearance for Saracens, with the Premiership’s leading try-scorer returning for Friday night’s top-four clash at Bath, having been rested for Sunday’s 23-10 win against the Exeter Chiefs.
Strettle replaces Chris Ashton (rested) on the right wing, with Chris Wyles retaining his place on the left flank. Alex Goode returns to the side at full-back to make up the back three.
Elsewhere in the backs, Joel Tomkins retains his place in the Saracens midfield after the outside centre started his first game for Saracens in 16 weeks last weekend - he is partnered by Brad Barritt.
In the halves, Charlie Hodgson and Neil de Kock starts at outside half and scrum half respectively, in a half-back pairing that has made 345 Premiership appearances between them.
In the pack, lock forward Steve Borthwick returns to the side as captain to face his old club– he is partnered by George Kruis in the second row.
In the front row, Mako Vunipola replaces Richard Barrington with Schalk Brits and James Johnston continuing at hooker and tighthead prop.
Jacques Burger wears the No.7 shirt as Kelly Brown takes his place on the Saracens replacements bench. Jackson Wray and Ernst Joubert complete the back row.
Brits, who scored Sarries’ second try against Exeter, said: “We’ve got a record, playing away at The Rec, but with a top notch team like Bath that is on good form, you need to play in the right areas.
“We can’t make the same mistakes we did in the first half [against Exeter]. We need to start off a lot more physical and keep on working for 80 minutes.
“It sounds like an easy recipe but that’s what we pride ourselves on – being whiter than white and not making mistakes.”
Second placed Saracens could see Bath leapfrog them should they lose. Last time out at Allianz Park in September, the Hendon side won 31-17, but Bath are on a seven-game winning streak in all competitions, something hooker Brits has been impressed by.
“Personally, I think it’s something that [former director of rugby] Gary Gold started a while ago and it’s sad, from my point of view, to not see him involved there any more.
“They’ve got a great captain, great front row and they are a well-drilled unit, so it’s going to be tough.
“I think [fly-half] George Ford has made a big difference to their side. I don’t know if he’s going to play but he is a good player.”
The England understudy to Sarries goal kicker Owen Farrell does indeed play and he is one of seven changes to the Bath line-up.
Bath: 15. Nick Abendanon, 14. Anthony Watson, 13. Ollie Devoto, 12. Kyle Eastmond, 11. Matt Banahan, 10. George Ford, 9. Peter Stringer, 1. Paul James, 2. Ross Batty, 3. Anthony Perenise, 4. Dominic Day, 5. Dave Attwood, 6. Alafoti Fa’osiliva, 7. Francois Louw (c), 8. Leroy Houston
Replacements: 16. Eusebio Guinazu, 17. Nathan Catt, 18. Juan Pablo Orlandi, 19. Ryan Caldwell 20. Guy Mercer, 21. Micky Young, 22. Gavin Henson, 23. Semesa Rokoduguni
Saracens: 15. Alex Goode; 14. David Strettle, 13. Joel Tomkins, 12. Brad Barritt, 11. Chris Wyles; 10. Charlie Hodgson, 9. Neil de Kock; 1. Mako Vunipola, 2. Schalk Brits, 3. James Johnston, 4. Steve Borthwick (c), 5. George Kruis, 6. Jackson Wray 7. Jacques Burger , 8. Ernst Joubert.
Replacements: 16. Jamie George, 17. Richard Barrington, 18. Matt Stevens, 19. Eoin Sheriff, 20. Kelly Brown, 21. Richard Wigglesworth, 22. Duncan Taylor, 23. Marcelo Bosch.