Preview: Saracens v London Irish

Date published: August 31 2012

Chris Ashton will make his debut for Saracens against London Irish in the London Double Header at Twickenham on Saturday.

Chris Ashton will make his Premiership debut for Saracens against London Irish as part of the London Double Header at Twickenham on Saturday.

Kelly Brown also makes a return from the leg injury that saw him miss the second half of last season. Centre Joel Tomkins forms a partnership with Brad Barritt with Alex Goode at full-back.

Mako Vunipola is given the nod at loose head prop with Petrus du Plessis on the other side of the scrum. Rhys Gill and Carlos Nieto are among the replacements. Owen Farrell and Alistair Hargreaves both picked up knocks in training this week and miss the match.

“It promises to be an exciting season in the Aviva Premiership and looking around the league, all clubs have strengthened going into the new campaign with quality players joining from all across the globe – proving that this competition is one of the best in the world,” said Director of Rugby Mark McCall.

“The players have worked hard over the summer months in an excellent pre-season that has allowed us to spend time together on and off the field, creating an even stronger bond among the group. The objective of the club is to be consistently successful and we are aware that in order for that to be achieved, there will be no substitute for hard work over the coming months – starting at Twickenham on Saturday.

“London Irish have made a number of changes on and off the field. In Brian Smith they have an experienced Director of Rugby and with the likes of Tomas O'Leary and Shane Geraghty joining their squad, they have also added quality on the pitch which should make for an exciting game.”

Meanwhile, New Zealand lock Bryn Evans will captain London Irish. Evans will form a second row partnership with George Skivington, who joined from Leicester Tigers over the summer.

Scotland international, Scott Lawson, will start at hooker alongside Max Lahiff and Leo Halavatau with Jon Fisher, Jamie Gibson and Ofisa Treviranus making up the back row.

Ireland international, Tomás O'Leary, will partner Steven Shingler at half back with Sailosi Tagicakibau moving from the wing to inside centre in place of injured Joe Ansbro.

Jonathan Joseph will partner the Samoan in the centre with Marland Yarde, Topsy Ojo and last season's Aviva Premiership top point scorer, Tom Homer, making up the back three.

“We've got a fantastic squad on board for the 2012/13 season and we are looking forward to the season ahead,” said London Irish Director of Rugby Brian Smith.

“This squad is very ambitious and we aim to emulate the deeds of our courageous sevens team that won the JP Morgan sevens title over the summer.”

Form: Saracens have a won 3, lost 5 record in previous London Double Headers, and have won just one of the last four such encounters. Sarries were victorious in their last three regular season fixtures in Aviva Premiership Rugby last season. London Irish's record in previous London Double Header clashes is won 5, lost 3. The Exiles won their last two games of last season at Worcester and at home to Gloucester. Irish have won only one of their last six visits to Twickenham: 33-16 over Saracens in this equivalent fixture in 2010. Saracens have won their last three encounters with London Irish.

Rugby Union betting odds

The teams:

Saracens:15 Alex Goode, 14 Chris Ashton, 13 Joel Tomkins, 12 Brad Barritt, 11 Chris Wyles, 10 Charlie Hodgson, 9 Richard Wigglesworth, 8 Ernst Joubert, 7 Will Fraser, 6 Kelly Brown, 5 Mouritz Botha, 4 Steve Borthwick (c), 3 Petrus du Plessis, 2 Schalk Brits, 1 Mako Vunipola.
Replacements: 16 Jamie George, 17 Rhys Gill, 18 Carlos Nieto, 19 Eoin Sheriff, 20 Jackson Wray, 21 Neil de Kock, 22 Nils Mordt, 23 James Short.

London Irish:15 Tom Homer, 14 Topsy Ojo, 13 Jonathan Joseph, 12 Sailosi Tagicakibau, 11 Marland Yarde 10 Steve Shingler, 9 Tomás O'Leary, 8 Jon Fisher 7 Ofisa Treviranus, 6 Jamie Gibson, 5 Bryn Evans (c), 4 George Skivington, 3 Leo Halavatau, 2 Scott Lawson, 1 Max Lahiff.
Replacements: 16 Brian Blaney, 17 Halani Aulika, 18 Cai Griffiths, 19 Kieran Low, 20 Declan Danaher, 21 Alex Gray, 22 Shane Geraghty, 23 Jack Moates.

Date: Saturday, September 1
Venue: Twickenham
Kick-off: 16.30 BST (15.30 GMT)
Referee: Wayne Barnes