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Injuries mount up but Saracens have Wray of hope

Jacques Burger will be out of action for Saracens after undergoing minor surgery.. Photo by Tony Marshall/Getty Images Jacques Burger will be out of action for Saracens after undergoing minor surgery.. Photo by Tony Marshall/Getty Images

Friday, December 20, 2013
5:32 PM

Saracens will be without Jacques Burger, top try-scorer David Strettle and Duncan Taylor for Saturday’s clash at home to Premiership champions Leicester Tigers – but Jackson Wray says the Hendon side have already proved the can cope with top stars missing.

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Flanker Burger went under the knife on Tuesday, announcing on Twitter that it was only a “minor operation” and that he “should be back playing in a couple of weeks”.

It sees the tough-tackling Namibian join the list of Sarries wounded which includes Brad Barritt (foot), Joel Tomkins (knee), Mourtiz Botha and Will Fraser (both ankle). The latter, also a back row, was another player on the surgeon’s table this week to repair a foot injury that looks set to keep him out of action for much of the season.

Centre Taylor also misses out after injuring his ankle while scoring the second of his two tries in last Saturday’s 64-3 Heineken Cup romp over Zebre.

Strettle, who started the nine-try route last weekend, misses out with a minor knock and is replaced by Jack Wilson on the wing.

Wray, who earned the man-of-the-match gong on Saturday but moves to the bench tomorrow, said: “We have got a lot of players out.

“We lost Mo [Botha] and Will to ankles and Joel Tomkins. Mako’s [Vunipola] just come back, so we’ve been missing players.

“We’ve dealt with it very well, no matter who takes the field. Whoever plays [against Leicester] I don’t think it makes a difference, we’ll play how we want to. We’ll give it all we’ve got and see how we go.”

As expected, Saracens claimed consecutive European bonus point victories against Italian’s Zebre – the nine tries in their home tie setting a new record at their Allianz Park home, which was making its Heineken Cup debut.

The task will be harder against a Tigers side who sit just outside the play-off places, but Wray believes they’ll be able to adapt to the increased intensity.

“Out mindset hasn’t changed,” he said, adding: “We play different teams at different levels but we don’t do anything specifically different from Toulouse, Zebre or for Worcester in a few weeks’ time.

“We just want to play well every week, get a performance and hopefully a win will follow.”

Argentine international Marcelo Bosch continues at outside centre, Chris Wyles comes in for Taylor at inside centre.

In the halves, Richard Wigglesworth continues at scrum-half and is partnered by Owen Farrell at outside half.

In the pack, Richard Barrington starts at loosehead prop with Mako Vunipola on the bench - Jamie George continues at hooker whilst Matt Stevens returns to the starting XV at tighthead prop.

Steve Borthwick captains the side at lock, and is joined by South African international Alastair Hargreaves in the second row.

In the back-row, Scotland captain Kelly Brown starts at openside flanker, with Billy Vunipola at blindside and Ernst Joubert at No.8.

Saracens have also announced that instant replays will be available on supporters’ mobile phones in a first for UK sport at Allianz Park on Saturday tomorrow.

The north London innovators will allow fans to log onto free stadium wifi, download the official club App - and review all the best action and pivotal moments.

Allianz Park stadium manager Gordon Banks said Saracens will keep seeking ways to push rugby forward for the supporters.

“We are always looking for ways to improve further the match day experience at Allianz Park and we are excited to be innovating again,” he said.

“We are offering supporters new second screen technology, ensuring they see all the action, from every angle, again and again.”

The Saracens App is available on IOS and Android mobile devices.

Mathew Tait returns to the Leicester Tigers line-up and takes the No.15 shirt for the first time this season after returning from an ankle injury.

Director of rugby Richard Cockerill makes a number of changes to the squad following two physical contests with Montpellier in the Heineken Cup and in line with the England Elite Player Squad agreement.

Matt Smith comes in at centre and Ryan Lamb starts at fly-half. Changes in the forwards include the return of Boris Stankovich to the front row and Ed Salter at lock while Argentina international flanker Pablo Matera gains a first start for the club. Terrence Hepetema returns from injury to claim a place among the replacements.

Saracens: 15. Alex Goode; 14. Chris Ashton, 13. Marcelo Bosch, 12. Chris Wyles, 11. Jack Wilson; 10. Owen Farrell, 9. Richard Wigglesworth; 1. Richard Barrington, 2. Jamie George, 3. Matt Stevens, 4. Steve Borthwick ©, 5. Alastair Hargreaves, 6. Billy Vunipola, 7. Kelly Brown, 8. Ernst Joubert.

Replacements: 16. Schalk Brits, 17. Mako Vunipola, 18. James Johnston, 19. George Kruis, 20. Jackson Wray, 21. Neil de Kock, 22. Charlie Hodgson, 23. Ben Ransom.

Leicester Tigers: 15 Mathew Tait, 14 Niall Morris, 13 Vereniki Goneva, 12 Matt Smith, 11 Miles Benjamin, 10 Ryan Lamb, 9 Ben Youngs, 1 Boris Stankovich, 2 Neil Briggs, 3 Fraser Balmain, 4 Ed Slater, 5 Graham Kitchener, 6 Jamie Gibson, 7 Pablo Matera, 8 Jordan Crane (c)

Replacements: 16 Tom Youngs, 17 Marcos Ayerza, 18 Jérôme Schuster, 19 Sebastian De Chaves, 20 Thomas Waldrom, 21 David Mélé, 22 Terrence Hepetema, 23 Adam Thompstone

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