Preview: Saracens v Newcastle

Date published: February 27 2015

Saracens have named their side to face Newcastle in Saturday's clash at Allianz Park, looking to bounce back from last week's loss at Sale.

Welsh prop Rhys Gill starts at loosehead prop to face the Falcons, he joins hooker Jamie George and Petrus du Plessis in the front-row.

At lock, Alistair Hargreaves captains the side and he is joined by Maro Itoje. In the back row, Nick De Jager will make his Premiership debut for the club lining up alongside Jacques Burger and Jackson Wray.

At half-back, experienced duo Neil de Kock and Charlie Hodgson start whilst in the midfield Brad Barritt continues alongside Marcelo Bosch.

In the back three, Ben Ransom comes into the side to start at full-back with Chris Wyles starting on the right wing in place for the rested Chris Ashton. David Strettle continues on the left wing.

Meanwhile, Newcastle have made five changes from the team that took a 23-all draw from last week's match against Wasps.

With a combination of international call-ups and nursing niggles conspiring to force changes upon director of rugby Dean Richards and the Falcons coaching team, the team still exhibit an air of purpose ahead of taking on third placed Saracens.

In a backline showing only one change from the announced line-up against Wasps, Gonzalo Tiesi steps in for Noah Cato, who withdrew late from last week’s squad with back trouble while Alex Tait moves back to the full-back berth he was due to occupy against the Coventry-based side.

With Sinoti Sinoti, Adam Powell, Juan Pablo Socino, Tom Catterick and Mike Blair all remaining in their spots from last week, the Falcons are fielding a backline that has scored 14 of the clubs 37 league tries and who have been exhibiting some exciting skills, in both attack and defence on the same style of 3G synthetic surface that will host this weekend’s game.

In the forwards, international call-ups see Kieran Brookes and Josh Furno replaced by Juan Pablo Orlandi and Kane Thompson respectively, while a further change in the front five sees Rob Hawkins give way to Scott Lawson at hooker.

Providing continuity in the front and second-rows, Rob Vickers remains as the starting loosehead prop and Dom Barrow again occupies the number five shirt in his second start since returning from injury.

Across the back-row, Ally Hogg is unavailable following a hamstring strain picked up during the Wasps game. As a result captain Will Welch starts on the blindside, with Andy Saull stepping into the openside flank position against his former club.

Completing the back row, Mark Wilson moves across from six to number eight, making his eighth start of the season in a position where he has bagged four of his tries to date.

Form: Saracens' last four fixtures in Aviva Premiership Rugby have all been won by the home side on the day, whilst Sarries only defeat at Allianz Park in the last 12 months came when Northampton were the visitors on 23 November. Newcastle Falcons’ solitary victory in their last seven Aviva Premiership Rugby matches was 38-7 at home to London Welsh in Round 13. Newcastle’s record in their last sixteen Premiership Rugby encounters at Kingston Park is won three, drawn one, lost twelve. Saracens have won their last eleven fixtures with the Falcons in al tournaments since the Tynesiders were triumphant 13-9 at Kingston Park in Premiership Rugby just over six years ago whilst the Falcons only win on Saracens soil since 2011 came at Vicarage Road in December 2007.  

The teams:

Saracens: 15 Ben Ransom, 14 Chris Wyles, 13 Marcelo Bosch, 12 Brad Barritt, 11 David Strettle, 10 Charlie Hodgson, 9 Neil De Kock, 8 Jackson Wray, 7 Jacques Burger, 6 Nick De Jager, 5 Alistair Hargreaves (c), 4 Maro Itoje, 3 Petrus Du Plessis, 2 Jamie George, 1 Rhys Gill.
Replacements: 16 Brett Sharman, 17 Richard Barrington, 18 Juan Figallo, 19 Jim Hamilton, 20 Matt Hankin, 21 Ben Spencer, 22 Nils Mordt, 23 Tim Streather.

Newcastle: 15 Alex Tait, 14 Sinoti Sinoti, 13 Adam Powell, 12 Juan Pablo Socino, 11 Gonzalo Tiesi, 10 Tom Catterick, 9 Mike Blair, 8 Mark Wilson, 7 Andy Saull, 6 Will Welch (c), 5 Dom Barrow, 4 Kane Thompson, 3 Juan Pablo Orlandi, 2 Scott Lawson, 1 Rob Vickers.
Replacements: 16 Rob Hawkins, 17 Alex Rogers, 18 Mark Irving, 19 Calum Green, 20 Chris York, 21 Ruki Tipuna, 22 Rory Clegg, 23 Alex Tuilagi.

Date: Saturday, February 28
Venue: Allianz Park
Kick-off: 15:00 GMT
Referee: Andrew Small
Assistant referees: Peter Huckle, Robin Goodliffe
TMO: Trevor Fisher