Preview: Saracens v Northampton Saints

Date published: September 16 2016

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Wing Chris Wyles makes his first Saracens appearance of the season after his involvement in the Rio Olympics earlier this year.

The USA international rotates with Sean Maitland who reverts to the bench, and joins Chris Ashton and Alex Goode in the Saracens back three.

Marcelo Bosch and skipper Brad Barritt continue at centre, whilst Mark McCall names the same half-back pairing for a third successive game.

Scrum-half Richard Wigglesworth is named alongside Alex Lozowski, who continues at fly-half with Owen Farrell missing out with a slight knock.

Up front, Schalk Brits rotates with Jamie George at hooker and he is joined by Mako Vunipola (loosehead prop) and Petrus Du Plessis in the Saracens front-row.

At lock, George Kruis misses out with a back complaint that ruled him out of Saracens away win against Exeter so Jim Hamilton continues to partner Maro Itoje.

In the back-row, Michael Rhodes swaps with Jackson Wray to make his first start of the season with Schalk Burger set to make his first start at Allianz Park since his move from South Africa. In-form number eight Billy Vunipola completes the Saracens loose forward trio.

“In the past few seasons Saints have always been tough opponents for us,” said Saracens director of rugby Mark McCall ahead of the game. “We have had some fiercely contested clashes against them and I’m sure Saturday will be no different.

“Owen (Farrell) has picked up a hip problem in training this week, which is frustrating as he was close to playing against Exeter, but it’s nothing too serious.

"In George Kruis’ case, there is still a slight issue with a back strain that he picked up just before the Exeter game, and just like last week, we’re not going to risk him. It’s a long season ahead and we have to manage our players with that in mind.”

Meanwhile, there is just one change to the Northampton matchday 23 which came home from Ashton Gate with a bonus-point win over Bristol last Sunday, with Mikey Haywood replacing Dylan Hartley in the front-row and Charlie Clare coming onto the bench.

Form: Defending Premiership champions, Saracens, have made the perfect start to their defence with two bonus point victories – only Harlequins in 2012 and themselves in 2013 and have begun their campaigns with 15 league points after three rounds. Northampton Saints lost at home to Bath in Round One of the Premiership but rebounded with a bonus point victory at Bristol on Sunday. The Saints have won their last two away games but have not won three in a row on the road since December 2014. The last three encounters between the two clubs have actually been won by the away side on the day, whilst Northampton are the only visiting side to have won more than once at Allianz Park – doing so on three separate occasions.  

The teams:

Saracens: 15 Alex Goode, 14 Chris Ashton, 13 Marcelo Bosch, 12 Brad Barritt (c), 11 Chris Wyles, 10 Alex Lozowski, 9 Richard Wigglesworth, 8 Billy Vunipola, 7 Schalk Burger, 6 Michael Rhodes, 5 Jim Hamilton, 4 Maro Itoje, 3 Petrus Du Plessis, 2 Schalk Brits, 1 Mako Vunipola
Replacements: 16 Jamie George, 17 Richard Barrington, 18 Juan Figallo, 19 Kelly Brown, 20 Jackson Wray, 21 Ben Spencer, 22 Duncan Taylor, 23 Sean Maitland

Northampton Saints: 15 Ahsee Tuala, 14 Ken Pisi, 13 George Pisi, 12 Luther Burrell, 11 George North, 10 Stephen Myler, 9 Lee Dickson, 8 Louis Picamoles, 7 Teimana Harrison, 6 Tom Wood (c), 5 Michael Paterson, 4 Courtney Lawes, 3 Kieran Brookes, 2 Mikey Haywood, 1 Alex Waller
Replacements: 16 Charlie Clare, 17 Campese Ma’afu, 18 Paul Hill, 19 Sam Dickinson, 20 Jamie Gibson, 21 Nic Groom, 22 Harry Mallinder, 23 Ben Foden

Date: Saturday, September 16
Venue: Allianz Park
Kick-off: 15:00 BST (14:00 GMT)
Referee: Greg Garner
Assistant Referees: Nigel Carrick, Roy Maybank
TMO: Trevor Fisher

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