Preview: Saracens v Northampton

Date published: April 8 2016

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Playing in their fifth successive European quarter-final, Saracens welcome back Chris Wyles into the starting XV to face Northampton.

Wyles comes into the side on the left wing, joining Chris Ashton (right wing) and Alex Goode in the Saracens back three.

At centre, Brad Barritt will lead out Saracens as captain in the club’s first ever European knock-out game at Allianz Park, and will be partnered by Duncan Taylor in midfield.

Owen Farrell will look to add to his 73 Champions Cup points this season from fly-half and will be joined by Richard Wigglesworth who starts at scrum-half.

In the front row Mako Vunipola starts at loosehead, with Schalk Brits (hooker) and Petrus du Plessis packing down alongside the England prop.

The familiar pair of Maro Itoje and George Kruis continue to partner each other at lock whilst in the back-row, Jackson Wray (blindside flanker), Will Fraser (openside flanker) and Billy Vunipola (number eight) all start.

Meanwhile, Ben Foden captains Northampton for the all-Aviva Premiership tie, while there are a quintet of changes to the starting XV that faced Wasps last Sunday.

In the backline, Luther Burrell and Jamie Elliott start, while Paul Hill comes onto the tighthead as one of three changes in the pack.

James Craig’s introduction to the second row sees Courtney Lawes move to the blindside flank, while Ben Nutley wears seven having skippered the Wanderers to the 'A' League semi-finals with two tries this past Monday evening.

Form: This will be the first time the clubs have met in the Champions Cup, however, they met once in the knockout stage of the Challenge Cup in 2008/09 with Saints winning the semi-final meeting on home soil. Saracens were the only side to go undefeated through the pool stage; it was the first time they achieved such a feat in the competition. However, no club has won six out of six pool games and gone on to win the competition in the same season. Saracens have won four of their five quarter-final appearances in the Champions Cup, although their one defeat came on home soil (v Clermont). This will be Northampton Saints' eighth quarter-final appearance in the Champions Cup and their sixth away from home; they have progressed from just one of their five away quarter finals. Saints have won six of their last nine away matches in the Champions Cup (L3), though one of those losses came in last season's quarter final against Clermont. Come kick-off, it will have been 904 days since Saracens last lost a home match in the competition. 

The teams:

Saracens: 15 Alex Goode, 14 Chris Ashton, 13 Duncan Taylor, 12 Brad Barritt, 11 Chris Wyles, 10 Owen Farrell, 9 Richard Wigglesworth, 8 Billy Vunipola, 7 Will Fraser, 6 Jackson Wray, 5 George Kruis, 4 Maro Itoje, 3 Petrus du Plessis, 2 Schalk Brits, 1 Mako Vunipola
Replacements: 16 Jared Saunders, 17 Richard Barrington, 18 Titi Lamositele, 19 Alistair Hargreaves, 20 Michael Rhodes, 21 Neil de Kock, 22 Marcelo Bosch, 23 Ben Ransom

Northampton: 15 Ben Foden (c), 14 Ken Pisi, 13 George Pisi, 12 Luther Burrell, 11 Jamie Elliott, 10 Stephen Myler, 9 Kahn Fotuali’i, 8 Teimana Harrison, 7 Ben Nutley, 6 Courtney Lawes, 5 Christian Day, 4 James Craig, 3 Paul Hill, 2 Mikey Haywood, 1 Alex Waller
Replacements: 16 Reece Marshall, 17 Campese Ma’afu, 18 Gareth Denman, 19 Victor Matfield, 20 Michael Paterson, 21 Tom Kessell, 22 JJ Hanrahan, 23 Harry Mallinder

Date: Saturday, April 9
Venue: Allianz Park
Kick-off: 17:45 BST (16:45 GMT)
Referee: Jérôme Garcès (France)
Assistant Referees: Mathieu Raynal (France), Pierre Brousset (France)
TMO: Eric Gauzins (France)

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