Preview: Saracens v Exeter Chiefs

Date published: January 6 2017

It will be an afternoon of milestones for two Saracens front-rowers as loosehead prop Richard Barrington will make his 100th appearance for Saracens with Juan Figallo bringing up a half-century of appearances for the club.

Barrington and Figallo are joined by Schalk Brits in the front row, whilst at lock, Jim Hamilton comes into the side to partner Maro Itoje.

In the back row, Kelly Brown starts at openside flanker with Mike Rhodes (blindside flanker) and Jackson Wray (number eight) also named to start.

In the halves, Alex Lozowski comes into the side at fly-half for Owen Farrell who is rested with Richard Wigglesworth coming back into the side at scrum-half.

Brad Barritt skippers the side from inside centre alongside the in-form Marcelo Bosch in the Saracens midfield.

In the backs, Sean Maitland is named on the right wing in place of Chris Ashton who is rested after sustaining a head knock last weekend in Saracens 16-12 win over Leicester Tigers. Chris Wyles comes back into the side on the left wing with Alex Goode continuing at full-back.

Saracens director of rugby, Mark McCall: “In recent years we have had some classic battles against the Chiefs so we need no reminding of just how strong a side they are. Exeter will certainly be in the running for a top four spot at the end of the season so we know it will be a real test for us and we are looking forward to facing them at sold-out Allianz Park on Saturday.”

Meanwhile despite claiming a first-ever victory at Bath’s Recreation Ground last time out, Exeter boss Rob Baxter has made changes to his winning formula.

Up front, Carl Rimmer, Luke Cowan-Dickie and Greg Holmes make up a new-look front row, Ollie Atkins and Geoff Parling come into the second row, while England international Tom Johnson makes his first Premiership start since New Year’s Day at Northampton in 2016.

Behind, England star Henry Slade is fit again to take his place in the midfield alongside Sam Hill, while James Short is rewarded for his match-winning tries a week ago by starting on the wing against his former club.

Form: Saracens have lost just one of their last eight first team fixtures: 11-14 at Bath in Premiership Rugby on December 3. Sarries are unbeaten in any home game since Northampton visited Allianz Park in Premiership Rugby on March 5. Exeter Chiefs solitary defeat in their last eight games in all competitions was 7-13 at home to UBB in Round 3 of the Champions Cup. Exeter, along with Saracens, have the best away records in Premiership Rugby this season, both gaining 20 points from their six trips so far. Saracens have won their last four encounters with the Chiefs, including last season’s Premiership Rugby final at Twickenham, since Exeter’s 24-20 victory at Allianz Park in May 2015.

The teams:

Saracens: 15 Alex Goode, 14 Sean Maitland, 13 Marcelo Bosch, 12 Brad Barritt (c), 11 Chris Wyles, 10 Alex Lozowski, 9 Richard Wigglesworth, 8 Jackson Wray, 7 Kelly Brown, 6 Michael Rhodes, 5 Jim Hamilton, 4 Maro Itoje, 3 Juan Figallo, 2 Schalk Brits, 1 Richard Barrington
Replacements: 16 Jamie George, 17 Titi Lamositele, 18 Vincent Koch, 19 Will Skelton, 20 Schalk Burger, 21 Ben Spencer, 22 Duncan Taylor, 23 Nick Tompkins

Exeter Chiefs: 15 Phil Dollman, 14 Jack Nowell, 13 Sam Hill, 12 Henry Slade, 11 James Short, 10 Gareth Steenson (c), 9 Will Chudley, 8 Thomas Waldrom, 7 Tom Johnson, 6 Don Armand, 5 Geoff Parling, 4 Ollie Atkins, 3 Greg Holmes, 2 Luke Cowan-Dickie, 1 Carl Rimmer
Replacements: 16 Jack Yeandle, 17 Ben Moon, 18 Harry Williams, 19 Mitch Lees, 20 Dave Dennis, 21 Jack Maunder, 22 Ian Whitten, 23 Michele Campagnaro

Date: Saturday, January 7
Venue: Allianz Park
Kick-off: 15:00 GMT
Referee: Ian Tempest
Assistant Referees: Nigel Carrick, Paul Burton
TMO: Sean Davey