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Strettle calls for response at Sale as Saracens welcome back Six Nations stars

12:39 13 February 2014

David Strettle of Saracens scores a try against Worcester Warriors. Photo by Ian Walton/Getty Images

David Strettle of Saracens scores a try against Worcester Warriors. Photo by Ian Walton/Getty Images

2013 Getty Images

Saracens’ bid to regain top spot in the Aviva Premiership has been boosted by a number of returning internationals for Friday night’s trip to Sale Sharks.

The long-time league leaders head to the AJ Bell Stadium following a surprise home defeat at the hands of London Irish last time out.

Northampton then took advantage of that slip-up by edging past Exeter and claiming Premiership pole position, although it will be a short-lived stay if Saracens topple Sale.

With the Six Nations taking a weekend off, full-back Alex Goode, centre Brad Barritt and prop Mako Vunipola, who were all on England’s bench against RBS 6 Nations opponents Scotland five days ago, feature in the starting XV, as do Dark Blues duo Kelly Brown and Duncan Taylor.

And there is also a chance for wing Chris Ashton, who missed out on England selection in the opening two Six Nations games, while half-backs Charlie Hodgson and Richard Wigglesworth both face their former club.

“We are looking to respond,” Saracens’ England international wing David Strettle said.

“It is always important to respond, and we always say that it’s a sign of a good team when they respond from defeat.”

Another slump would be the first time the Hendon side will have lost three on the spin since March 2010. Saracens, who lost top spot in the Premiership for the first time since round one with last weekend’s 22-13 reverse at home to London Irish, do not have a good recent record at the AJ Bell Stadium, having lost on their last two visits.

While those defeats to came in the LV= Cup, Sarries have won all but one of their last 10 Premiership clashes against Sale.

The hosts are on a strong run of form, having won their last six fixtures at their home arena and three of their last four matches in the league to sit in their highest league position since they were in fifth place in early October.

Saracens: 15. Alex Goode; 14. Chris Ashton, 13. Duncan Taylor, 12. Brad Barritt, 11. David Strettle; 10. Charlie Hodgson, 9. Richard Wigglesworth; 1. Mako Vunipola, 2. Jamie George, 3. Matt Stevens, 4. Steve Borthwick, 5. George Kruis, 6. Kelly Brown, 7. Jacques Burger, 8. Jackson Wray.

Replacements; 16. Schalk Brits, 17. Richard Barrington, 18. James Johnston, 19. Mouritz Botha, 20. Ernst Joubert, 21. Neil De Kock, 22. Joel Tomkins, 23. Chris Wyles.

Sale: 1. Eifion Lewis-Roberts, 2. Marc Jones, 3. Vadim Cobilas, 4. Andrei Ostrikov, 5. Michael Paterson, 6. Dan Braid, 7. David Seymour, 8. James Gaskell, 9. Dwayne Peel, 10. Danny Cipriani, 11. Mark Cueto, 12. Sammy Tuitupou, 13. Johnny Leota, 14. Thomas Brady, 15. Rob Miller

Replacements: 16. Tommy Taylor, 17. Ross Harrison, 18. Henry Thomas, 19. Johnathan Mills, 20. Mark Easter, 21. Will Cliff, 22. Nick Macleod, 23. Tom Arscott

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