Preview: Saracens v Sale

Date published: February 4 2011

Former England prop Matt Stevens will make his first start for Saracens in Sunday's LV=Cup clash with Sale at Vicarage Road.

Former England prop Matt Stevens will make his first start for Saracens in Sunday's LV=Cup clash with Sale at Vicarage Road.

Sarries are still in the hunt for a semi-final place in the competition and give Matt Stevens a full debut at tight head prop in a line-up that also sees Ernst Joubert, Neil de Kock and David Strettle return to the starting XV following last week's 34-7 victory against the Scarlets.

On the bench, Hugh Vyvyan and Richard Wigglesworth also return while 19-year-old centre Henry Staff could be in line for his Saracens debut.

Saracens progress in the competition depends on the Dragons v Scarlets clash which kicks off two hours before the match at Vicarage Road, but Director of Rugby Mark McCall insists that will have no bearing on the approach to the game.

“Results elsewhere will have an impact on qualification for the semi-finals, but it won't have an impact on our performance or attitude going into the game,” he said.

“That is to build on the performance of last week and continue to improve in all areas of the pitch.”

Meanwhile, Sale have named Charlie Hodgson in their team.

“At the present time, we don't know how deeply involved in the competition we'll be,” said Sale Head Coach Pete Anglesea.

“But, week in, week out, it's about practising performance and developing good habits until they become second nature – that's where we'll be able to progress. We've gone back to basics, but people can see already that our line-out and scrum have improved. They're something to be positive about. Now, it's a case of putting everything together and being a harder team to play against.”

The teams:

Saracens:: 15 Alex Goode, 14 David Strettle, 13 Rodd Penney, 12 Nils Mordt, 11 Chris Wyles, 10 Owen Farrell, 9 Neil de Kock, 8 Ernst Joubert (C), 7 Jacques Burger, 6 Jackson Wray, 5 Mouritz Botha, 4 Hayden Smith, 3 Matt Stevens, 2 Jamie George, 1 Rhys Gill.
Replacements: 16 Ethienne Reynecke, 17 Jared Saunders, 18 Carlos Nieto, 19 Hugh Vyvyan, 20 Justin Melck, 21 Richard Wigglesworth, 22 Henry Staff, 23 Noah Cato.

Sale Sharks: 15 Nick Macleod, 14 Rhys Crane, 13 Chris Bell, 12 Iain Thornley, 11 Ben Cohen, 10 Charlie Hodgson, 9 Will Cliff, 8 Sisa Koyamaibole 7 Carl Fearns, 6 Sean Cox, 5 Kristian Ormsby, 4 Chris Jones, 3 Lee Imiolek, 2 Marc Jones, 1 Aston Croall.
Replacements:16 Ben Roberts, 17 Alex Allen, 18 Simon McIntyre, 19 Nic Rouse, 20 Chris Brightwell, 21 Chris Leck, 22 Rob Miller, 23 Fergus Mulchrone

Date: Sunday, February 6
Venue: Vicarage Road
Kick-off: 15.00 GMT
Referee: Leighton Hodges (Wales)