Preview: Saracens v Leicester Tigers

Date published: March 10 2017

Saracens have named their side to face Leicester Tigers in their Anglo-Welsh Cup semi-final at Allianz Park on Saturday.

In the pack, Richard Barrington (loosehead prop), Jared Saunders (hooker) start in the front-row alongside Vincent Koch who returns to the side a tighthead.

Lock forward Fa’atiga Lemalu will make his debut, with the Samoa vice-captain packing down alongside Mark Flanagan in the second row. Kelly Brown will add experience and nous to the back row at blindside flanker, with Joel Conlon starting at openside flanker – Samu Vunisa is named at number eight.

In the halves, Henry Taylor is named at scrum-half with Anglo-Welsh Cup Breakthrough Player of the Season nominee Tom Whiteley starting at fly-half.

In midfield, Nick Tompkins starts at inside centre with Tim Streather skippering the side from outside centre. In the back-three, Nathan Earle starts on the left-wing, with Mike Ellery named on the opposite flank – Matt Gallagher starts at full-back.

“The whole Anglo-Welsh Cup campaign has been a real team effort,” said Saracens director of rugby Mark McCall.

“Not just from the playing and coaching staff, but from all the support staff that have been involved in the group.

“Don Barrell (Academy Manager) and Ian Vass (Academy Coach) have done an incredible job to build this team within a team. There’s a great energy and a fantastic buzz amongst this side and we hope that Saracens fans will be there to support them at Allianz Park.”

Meanwhile, Mathew Tait will lead Leicester Tigers in this fixture.

Tait returns to the starting line-up and will play at outside centre alongside Jack Roberts who has recovered from a hamstring injury.

JP Pietersen (leftcwing) and Freddie Burns (fly-half) provide extra experience in the back-line, with George Worth returning from a spell with Nottingham to play at full-back.

Ellis Genge returns to the front row and is joined by George McGuigan and Fraser Balmain, with Graham Kitchener resuming in the second row alongside Harry Wells after recovering from a calf injury. Harry Thacker joins Luke Hamilton and Lachlan McCaffrey in the back row.

The replacements include international forwards Michele Rizzo and Tom Croft, plus fly-half Owen Williams alongside young prospects Joe Maksymiw, Will Owen, Ben White and Charlie Thacker.

Tigers assistant coach Geordan Murphy said: “We’ve got a good combination of senior players in the team with some younger guys who deserve their opportunity.

“They now have a chance to show what they can do in the shirt. It’s great to see some of those young guys getting an opportunity because it doesn’t matter how much training and analysis work you do, nothing compares to going out on the field.”

The teams:

Saracens: 15 Matt Gallagher, 14 Mike Ellery, 13 Tim Streather (c), 12 Nick Tompkins, 11 Nathan Earle, 10 Tom Whiteley, 9 Henry Taylor,8 Samu Vunisa, 7 Joel Conlon, 6 Kelly Brown, 5 Mark Flanagan, 4 Fa’atiga Lemalu, 3 Vincent Koch, 2 Jared Saunders, 1 Richard Barrington
Replacements: 16 Tom Lindsay, 17 Hayden Stringer, 18 Titi Lamositele, 19 Nick Isiekwe, 20 Schalk Burger, 21 Neil De Kock, 22 Alex Lozowski, 23 George Perkins

Leicester Tigers: 15 George Worth, 14 Tom Brady, 13 Mathew Tait (c), 12 Jack Roberts, 11 JP Pietersen, 10 Freddie Burns, 9 Jono Kitto, 8 Lachlan McCaffrey, 7 Harry Thacker, 6 Luke Hamilton, 5 Graham Kitchener, 4 Harry Wells, 3 Fraser Balmain, 2 George McGuigan, 1 Ellis Genge
Replacements: 16 Tom Croft, 17 Michele Rizzo, 18 Greg Bateman, 19 Joe Maksymiw, 20 Will Owen, 21 Ben White, 22 Owen Williams, 23 Charlie Thacker

Date: Saturday, March 11
Venue: Allianz Park
Kick-off: 18:00 GMT
Referee: Luke Pearce (England)
Assistant Referees: Gregory M Garner (England), Jonathan Healy (England)
TMO: Keith Lewis (England)

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