Saracens stars gear up for start of Six Nations
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Plenty of Sarries players will be in action for their countries over the next six weeks
While many of the Saracens squad will be without a game this weekend, others will be on international duty as the Guinness Six Nations starts up again.
The likes of Welsh back Liam Williams, Scotland wing Sean Maitland and England captain Owen Farrell will all be with their countries for the next six weeks.
Farrell is likely to be joined in the England squad for much of the competition by club colleagues Mako Vunipola, George Kruis, Maro Itoje and Billy Vunipola.
England kick-off their campaign away to Ireland on Saturday and lock Itoje insists only a win can see England claim what he sees as their rightful place as the dominant force in Europe.
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Eddie Jones’ men open their Six Nations campaign in Dublin with a clash against the side that replaced them as champions last year.
Ireland occupy second place in the global rankings and toppled leaders New Zealand just two months ago, but Itoje insists England are ready to challenge their status.
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“Over the last year or so, Ireland have been the number one team in the northern hemisphere,” said the Saracens lock.
“Obviously we want to be the dominant team. That’s always been the case. I think England should be the number one team, but we’re not at the moment.
“The only way to rectify that is to beat Ireland. To be the best, you must beat the best.
“We’re lucky we have a lot of very competitive animals in the team. This game is one that we’ve been looking forward to for a while.
“We’ll find out how far away from them we are on Saturday. I have complete faith in our team, players, coaches and staff.
“We can definitely beat them, I have no doubt in my mind about that. It’s a great opportunity for us, it truly is.
“It’s a great way to start and will be a great way to kick off what will hopefully be a very successful year for us.
“But every game counts in the Six Nations because if we beat Ireland, it doesn’t mean anything if we then lose to France the following week.”
England have been preparing for their clash with Ireland at a warm-weather training camp in Portugal.
The other fixtures in the opening weekend of the Six Nations see Wales visit France on Friday and Scotland host Italy on Saturday.