Preview: Bristol v Saracens

Date published: September 29 2016

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Jack Tovey is set to make his first appearance of the season when Bristol host Saracens in their Premiership clash on Friday.
 
The Academy graduate comes into the midfield for his Aviva Premiership debut, while Will Hurrell switches to inside-centre.
 
Bristol's Director of Rugby Andy Robinson makes a total of three changes ahead of the Round Five clash against European champions, as Charlie Amesbury earns a first start of the campaign.
 
In the only change to the pack, Samoan international Anthony Perenise comes into the front row.
 
"These are the sort of games that everybody associated with the club is looking forward to. We want to test ourselves against the best teams in the league, and Saracens are a quality outfit," said Robinson.
 
"We’re pleased for Jack Tovey, who makes his top flight debut having been with the Club throughout our time in the Championship. We know what we can expect from the visitors on Friday, so it’s important that we keep our discipline and take our opportunities when they come."
 
Ben Mosses (knee), Gavin Henson (dead leg), Ben Glynn (shoulder), Marc Jones (knee), David Lemi (knee), Callum Sheedy (hamstring), Glen Townson (knee) and Ian Evans (hip) are all unavailable for selection.

Meanwhile, Saracens lock George Kruis makes his comeback from a back injury that has ruled him out of the last three Premiership fixtures. The England international is reunited with Maro Itoje in the second row.

Saracens also welcome back Schalk Burger into the fold, with the experienced South African loose-forward named alongside Jackson Wray (blindside flanker) and Billy Vunipola (number eight) in the back row.

In the front row, Mako Vunipola will face his former side at loose-head prop, and is joined by Jamie George (hooker) and Petrus Du Plessis (tighthead). Schalk Brits is ruled out of the game with a knock.

In the backs, Matt Gallagher will make his Saracens debut on the left wing – the England U20s three-quarter will link up with Mike Ellery (right wing) and Chris Wyles (full-back) in the Sarries back three. Alex Goode is nursing a slight knee injury sustained in the round four defeat to Harlequins and hasn’t been risked.

England Saxons centre Nick Tompkins rotates with Marcelo Bosch at outside centre and will line up alongside skipper Brad Barritt who starts in the number twelve jersey. In the halves, Alex Lozowski continues at fly-half and he is joined by Ben Spencer at scrum-half. The England Saxons halfback rotates with Richard Wigglesworth, who is named on the bench.

Speaking ahead of the game, Saracens boss Mark McCall said: "Bristol have proved how competitive the are at home already this season, and we’re well aware that a trip to Ashton Gate under the lights will be a tough examination for us. 

"We’re running low on a few bodies in the backs, but that gives us the chance to blood a few youngsters and we’re looking forward to seeing how they meet the challenge tomorrow night.

"We’ve enjoyed a strong training week, and the group are all eager to get out there on Friday."

On Saracens’ absentees, McCall added: "Owen Farrell has a back problem, which we’re continuing to monitor. It's really a day-by-day thing with Owen at the moment – it's a bit of an open-ended injury which is always frustrating for the player and the Club, but we won’t risk him. 

"Alex (Goode) and Schalk (Brits) picked up a knocks against Harlequins and they were both touch and go for tomorrow evening, but we have a long season ahead and they both miss out on this occasion. 

"Sean Maitland has a knee injury and he is nearing return, whilst other guys such as Will Fraser (hip), Duncan Taylor (ankle) and Tim Streather (leg) are a bit further away from a return to action and we’ll manage their return to play accordingly."

Form: Bristol have lost all four matches in the Premiership this year, although they did attain a losing bonus point in Round 1, and have three times finished a game on three tries. Bristol have not been victorious at Ashton Gate since last season’s RFU Championship semi-final second leg against Bedford. Saracens' 13 match winning run in all competitions ended at Harlequins on Saturday. Sarries have not lost successive Premiership encounters since May 2015. Saracens have won their last four encounters with Bristol in all competitions, the most recent of which was at Vicarage Road in January 2009. Bristol’s last win against Saracens was at the Memorial Stadium in January 2008. 

The teams:

Bristol : 15 Jordan Williams, 14 Ryan Edwards, 13 Jack Tovey, 12 Will Hurrell, 11 Charlie Amesbury, 10 Tusi Pisi, 9 Will Cliff, 8 Jordan Crane, 7 Jack Lam (c), 6 Jon Fisher, 5 Mark Sorenson, 4 James Phillips, 3 Anthony Perenise, 2 Ross McMillan, 1 Kyle Traynor
Replacements: 16 Max Crumpton, 17 Ryan Bevington, 18 Gaston Cortes, 19 Joe Joyce, 20 Mitch Eadie, 21 Rhodri Williams, 22 Adrian Jarvis, 23 Jack Wallace

Saracens: 15 Chris Wyles, 14 Mike Ellery, 13 Nick Tompkins, 12 Brad Barritt (c), 11 Matt Gallagher, 10 Alex Lozowski, 9 Ben Spencer, 8 Billy Vunipola, 7 Schalk Burger, 6 Jackson Wray, 5 George Kruis, 4 Maro Itoje, 3 Petrus De Plessis, 2 Jamie George, 1 Mako Vunipola
Replacements: 16 Scott Spurling, 17 Richard Barrington, 18 Juan Figallo, 19 Jim Hamilton, 20 Michael Rhodes, 21 Richard Wigglesworth, 22 Marcelo Bosch, 23 George Perkins

Date: Friday, 30 September
Venue: Ashton Gate
Kick-off: 19:45 (18:45 GMT)
Referee: Ian Tempest
Assistant Referees: Jonathan Healy, Paul Burton
TMO: Stuart Terheege

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