Preview: Saracens v Scarlets

Date published: October 21 2016

Saracens have named their team to face Scarlets for Saturday’s Champions Cup round two clash at Allianz Park.

Director of rugby Mark McCall makes three changes to the team who defeated Toulon last weekend with Jamie George and Jackson Wray reverting to the bench and Schalk Brits and Michael Rhodes coming into the starting XV.

Saracens are forced into one change, with George Kruis sidelined Jim Hamilton comes into the side at lock forward to partner Maro Itoje.

In the front-row, Mako Vunipola lines up at loosehead prop with Schalk Brits named at hooker and Juan Figallo packing down at tighthead. Jim Hamilton and Maro Itoje are the starting locks, with Michael Rhodes at blindside flank, Schalk Burger at openside flank and Billy Vunipola at number eight to make up the loose forward trio.

Saracens name an unchanged backline to the one that took to the field in Toulon, with Richard Wigglesworth starting at scrum-half alongside Owen Farrell at fly-half. At centre Brad Barritt skippers the side alongside Marcelo Bosch whilst Sean Maitland, Chris Wyles left wing and Alex Goode full-back are named in the back three.

Speaking ahead of the game, McCall said: "Under Wayne Pivac the Scarlets have made some huge strides as a team. They have recruited extremely well in the summer, bringing in some star names to add to an already competitive group, and they have a backline that will threaten any side in the competition.

"They have proved that this season in the PRO12 and their win last weekend against Sale Sharks they are a dangerous side, so we know that Saturday will be a tough game for us."

Meanwhile, following last weekend's opening round victory over Sale Sharks at Parc y Scarlets the West Wales region sit atop of pool three ahead of current Cup holders Saracens and former triple-time champions Toulon.

The Scarlets are fully aware of the challenge that lies ahead this weekend however as they travel to Saracens' Allianz Park home looking to follow up the success of the opening round.

Head coach Wayne Pivac has been forced into making a change to last weekend's starting line up with Will Boyde coming in to the back row in place of injured James Davies, who pulled up in last weekend's clash with a tight hamstring.

Pivac has remained consistent with selection for the remainder of the starting XV.

Speaking ahead of the game Pivac said: "It's certainly a bigger challenge this week. They have set the benchmark for everyone else to chase. It's a massive step up this week but also a great challenge.

"We're still looking for a performance we're happy with over the 80 minutes. We need to eliminate the unforced errors. When you're playing a top-side, they're going to be good enough with their own armoury without us gifting them opportunities.

"Occasionally top sides don't have their best days at the office and other sides play their best games. For us it's a focus this week for the international boys who played well on the weekend to back that up and take it up another level again. We're definitely looking forward to the challenge."

Form: Holders Saracens have never faced Scarlets in Europe before. Saracens have won five of their previous seven games against Welsh opponents with six of those seven games being decided by margins of 10 points or fewer. Scarlets have lost their last two away games against Premiership clubs. Saturday's game will see Scarlets aim to win back to back games in the competition for the first time since 2011 when they beat Castres and Northampton Saints. Saracens have won their last 10 games in the competition and have not lost at home since 2013, winning their last nine on their own patch.

The teams:

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

Scarlets: 15 Liam Williams, 14 DTH van der Merwe, 13 Jonathan Davies, 12 Scott Williams, 11 Steff Evans, 10 Rhys Patchell, 9 Gareth Davies, 8 John Barclay, 7 Will Boyde, 6 Aaron Shingler, 5 David Bulbring, 4 Jake Ball, 3 Samson Lee, 2 Ken Owens (c), 1 Wyn Jones
Replacements: 16 Ryan Elias, 17 Luke Garrett, 18 Werner Kruger, 19 Lewis Rawlins, 20 Josh Macleod, 21 Jonathan Evans, 22 Dan Jones, 23 Hadleigh Parkes

Date: Saturday, October 22
Venue: Allianz Park
Kick-off: 17:30 BST (16:30 GMT)
Referee: Pascal Gauzère (France)
Assistant Referees: Maxime Chalon (France), Jean-Luc Rebollal (France)
TMO: Philippe Bonhoure (France)