Preview: Saracens v Leicester

Date published: April 10 2015

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Saracens will hope to avoid a European hangover when they host Leicester in what promises to be a fiercely competitive showdown on Saturday.

Just two points separate the in-form pair who currently occupy second and fourth spot in the Premiership standings with just four rounds remaining.

Saracens know that they simply must triumph against the Tigers to avoid the pressure being on when they travel to Northampton in two weeks, while Leicester will be confident of picking up five points against London Welsh at Welford Road in what's shaping up to be a tight race for a home semi-final.

In team news, England centre Brad Barritt returns to the Saracens line-up and partners Champions Cup hero Marcelo Bosch in the midfield, with Chris Wyles moving to the left wing. Alex Goode continues at full-back, with Chris Ashton named on the right wing.

In the halves, Charlie Hodgson continues at fly-half with England scrum-half Richard Wigglesworth named at number nine.

Up front, Mark McCall names the same front-row that faced Racing Metro last weekend, with Mako Vunipola, Jamie George and Petrus Du Plessis all named to start.

Skipper Alistair Hargreaves returns to the side at second-row, and will partner George Kruis at lock.

Kelly Brown comes into the side for the suspended Jacques Burger at openside flanker and will join Jackson Wray (blindside) and Billy Vunipola (number eight) in the back-row.

Meanwhile, Richard Cockerill makes just two changes to the Tigers line-up that started the win over Exeter Chiefs in Round 18, with Niall Morris and Vereniki Goneva on the wings in place of Adam Thompstone, who is among the replacements, and the injured Miles Benjamin.

Graham Kitchener is included among the replacements after recovering from a foot injury and he joins internationals Leonardo Ghiraldini, Michele Rizzo and Logovi'i Mulipola on the Tigers bench.

Tigers have won their last five Aviva Premiership matches to move into the top four in the table, two points and two places behind Saturday's hosts Saracens.

"This is a really big game for both teams with just four rounds of fixtures left in the season," said director of rugby Cockerill.

"It is a tough place to go and Saracens are a consistently good team who come into this weekend on the back of a European Cup quarter-final win.

"But we've come into some form and we want to maintain that through to the end of the season and see where that takes us."

Form: Saracens have won their last six fixtures in all tournaments since a 10-14 reversal at Sale in the Aviva Premiership on 21st February. Saracens have been defeated only once at Allianz Park in the tournament in the past 12 months: 24-31 to Northampton in round 8. Leicester Tigers have won their last five Aviva Premiership Rugby matches since going down 12-32 to Harlequins at the Twickenham Stoop in round 13. The Tigers are the second best away side in the Premiership with a won five, lost four record on their travels despite scoring only 15 tries and conceding 24 in those encounters. The two clubs played out a 21-all draw at Welford Road in November, whilst Saracens have not beaten Leicester since a 49-10 scoreline in Aviva Premiership Rugby in December 2013, on the Tigers’ only previous visit to Allianz Park.

The teams:

Saracens: 15 Alex Goode, 14 Chris Ashton, 13 Marcelo Bosch, 12 Brad Barritt, 11 Chris Wyles, 10 Charlie Hodgson, 9 Richard Wigglesworth, 8 Billy Vunipola, 7 Kelly Brown, 6 Jackson Wray, 5 Alistair Hargreaves (c), 4 George Kruis, 3 Petrus Du Plessis, 2 Jamie George, 1 Mako Vunipola.
Replacements: 16 Scott Spurling, 17 Richard Barrington, 18 James Johnston, 19 Maro Itoje, 20 Ernst Joubert, 21 Neil de Kock, 22 Duncan Taylor, 23 David Strettle.

Leicester: 15 Mathew Tait, 14 Niall Morris, 13 Matt Smith, 12 Seremaia Bai, 11 Vereniki Goneva, 10 Freddie Burns, 9 Ben Youngs (c), 8 Jordan Crane, 7 Julian Salvi, 6 Jamie Gibson, 5 Geoff Parling, 4 Sebastian De Chaves, 3 Dan Cole, 2 Tom Youngs, 1 Marcos Ayerza.
Replacements: 16 Leonardo Ghiraldini, 17 Michele Rizzo, 18 Logovi'i Mulipola, 19 Graham Kitchener, 20 Laurence Pearce, 21 Sam Harrison, 22 Tommy Bell, 23 Adam Thompstone.

Date: Saturday, April 11
Kick-off: 15:15 BST
Venue: Allianz Park
Referee: Matthew Carley
Assistant Referees: Roy Maybank, Robin Goodliffe
TMO: David Grashoff

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