December 7 2013 Latest news:
Thursday, October 10, 2013
Saracens director of rugby Mark McCall has made six changes for the Heineken Cup Pool 3 opener at Connacht tomorrow and warned his unbeaten side not to take lightly a Galway side who have beaten Harlequins, Biarritz and current champions Toulouse at The Sportsground in recent years.
The Hendon side have beaten all-commers so far in the Premiership this term and sit top of the league with five wins out of five - the first three games including try bonus points.
While they are the form team in their domestic competition, Ulsterman McCall knows that his side have their work cut out for them if they are to carry that winning run over the first hurdle of their European campaign.
McCall said: “We have got to be right mentally and physically. Connacht really step it up in this competition - I know that from my experiences in Ireland.
“It’s a really good, passionate atmosphere there and we have to be on our game - but having to grind out a victory against Wasps [on Saturday] will not have done us any harm.
“I know from experience that we have to be on the money when we go to the Sportsground.
“I think in the last four seasons Connacht have beaten Harlequins, Biarritz and Toulouse in Galway.
“If that doesn’t focus our mind, I’m not sure what does.”
The Londoners were able to rest skipper Steve Borthwick and Billy Vunipola completely for last weekend’s 19-12 Premiership win over Wasps but the return tomorrow night in place of Alastair Hargreaves and Ernst Joubert, in the second and back row respectively.
It’s all change in the front three with Mako Vunipola, Schalk Brits and Matt Stevens replacing Rhys Gill, Jamie George and James Johnstone, while Will Fraser retains his place at openside flanker and George Kruis continues at lock forward.
In the backs Owen Farrell returns at fly-half, with Alex Goode reverting to his more accustomed full-back role. Chris Wyles and Joel Tomkins continue to partner each other in the centres, and David Strettle returns on the left wing.
Saracens: 1.Mako Vunipola, 2. Schalk Brits, 3. Matt Stevens, 4. Steve Borthwick (c), 5. George Kruis, 6. Kelly Brown, 7. Will Fraser, 8. Billy Vunipola; 9. Neil de Kock, 10. Owen Farrell; 11. David Strettle, 12. Chris Wyles, 13. Joel Tomkins, 14. Chris Ashton; 15. Alex Goode
Replacements: 16. Jamie George, 17. Rhys Gill, 18. James Johnston, 19. Alastair Hargreaves, 20. Ernst Joubert, 21. Richard Wigglesworth, 22. Duncan Taylor, 23. Michael Tagicakibau.