Preview: Saracens v London Irish

Date published: January 2 2015

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Saracens have brought in David Strettle on the left wing for their Aviva Premiership clash with London Irish at Allianz Park on Saturday.

Strettle returns to the line-up, with Chris Wyles switching to the right wing. Ben Ransom starts at full-back as Chris Ashton misses out.

Up front, Petrus Du Plessis starts at tighthead prop and is joined by Jamie George and Mako Vunipola in the front-row.

Alistair Hargreaves captains the side from second-row and is joined by George Kruis at lock.

In the back-row, Jackson Wray wears the number six shirt, with Jacques Burger named at openside flanker and Billy Vunipola starting at eight.

Neil de Kock starts at scrum-half to partner Owen Farrell. Duncan Taylor starts at inside centre and is joined by Nick Tompkins in midfield.

Meanwhile, Eamonn Sheridan, Conor Gilsenan, Harry Allen and Ofisa Treviranus will all start for London Irish at Allianz Park this weekend.

Sheridan comes into the centre with Shane Geraghty moving to fly-half. Gilsenan and Treviranus start in the back-row with Allen set for a first start for the club at hooker with all four of the club’s current hookers sidelined through injury.

Tom Court, Allen and Geoff Cross make up the front-row with George Skivington and Nic Rouse in the second-row. Kieran Low, Gilsenan and Treviranus make up the back-row.

Geraghty and Scott Steele form the half-back pairing with Sheridan and Fergus Mulchrone in the centre. Topsy Ojo, Alex Lewington and Tom Homer make up the back three.

“We are under no illusions of the task in front of us and it is not made any easier by the fact we have 11 players unavailable for selection. Saracens are a well drilled side and are full of internationals. However, we have had a good record against them of late and will go to Allianz Park looking to continue that,” said London Irish director of rugby Brian Smith.

Form: Saracens have won their last four fixtures in all tournaments since they were defeated at Exeter Chiefs in Round Nine of Aviva Premiership Rugby. Saracens only defeat at Allianz Park since early February came when Northampton were the visitors in Aviva Premiership Rugby on 23 November. London Irish’s last four matches in all tournaments have all been won by the home side on the day whilst the Exiles’ only away win in their last six trips was when they visited Grenoble in the European Challenge Cup on 24 October. The last four contests between the two clubs have been evenly split with two wins apiece, with London Irish being one of only two teams ever to have beaten Saracens at Allianz Park – the other being Northampton, twice.

The teams:

Saracens: 15 Ben Ransom, 14 Chris Wyles, 13 Nick Tompkins, 12 Duncan Taylor, 11 David Strettle, 10 Owen Farrell, 9 Neil de Kock, 8 Billy Vunipola, 7 Jacques Burger, 6 Jackson Wray, 5 Alistair Hargreaves (c), 4 George Kruis, 3 Petrus Du Plessis, 2 Jamie George, 1 Mako Vunipola.
Replacements: 16 Brett Sharman, 17 Richard Barrington, 18 James Johnston, 19 Maro Itoje, 20 Kelly Brown, 21 Ben Spencer, 22 Nils Mordt, 23 Tim Streather.

London Irish: 15 Tom Homer, 14 Topsy Ojo, 13 Fergus Mulchrone, 12 Eamonn Sheridan, 11 Alex Lewington, 10 Shane Geraghty, 9 Scott Steele, 8 Ofisa Treviranus, 7 Conor Gilsenan, 6 Kieran Low, 5 Nic Rouse, 4 George Skivington (c), 3 Geoff Cross, 2 Harry Allen, 1 Tom Court.
Replacements: 16 Richard Palframan, 17 Leo Halavatau, 18 Halani Aulika, 19 Sean Cox, 20 Tom Guest, 21 Tom

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