Preview: Saracens v Ulster

Date published: January 15 2016

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Saracens boss Mark McCall names seven of the eight players who made England’s Elite Player Squad in his starting line-up to face Ulster.

Alex Goode is the only player missing with the 27-year-old full-back just missing on selection with a slight knock.

In Goode’s place at full-back is Ben Ransom, and he joins England wing Chris Ashton and USA international Chris Wyles in Saracens’ back three.

At centre, Brad Barritt continues to skipper the side in Alistair Hargreaves’ enforced absence, and will partner Marcelo Bosch in the midfield.

Owen Farrell continues at fly-half, and is joined by Richard Wigglesworth at half-back.

Mako Vunipola (loosehead prop), Jamie George (hooker) and Petrus Du Plessis (tighhead prop) continue in the front-row with Maro Itoje and George Kruis named at lock forward.

Will Fraser will wear the Sarries number seven shirt and joins Michael Rhodes and Billy Vunipola in the back-row.

Speaking ahead of the game, Saracens director of rugby Mark McCall said: “Ulster have players all over the field who are capable of winning games on both the domestic and international stage. In the past few seasons they have always been tough opponents for us, and they have made some real strides under Les Kiss in the last four or five weeks.

"Earlier this season they provided us with a really difficult game at the Kingspan Stadium and we are expecting the same again this Saturday.”

Meanwhile, Jared Payne will start at full-back for Ulster.

The Ireland international will be making his first appearance of the season for the Province after overcoming a foot injury he picked up during last year's Rugby World Cup.

He is joined in the back three by Craig Gilroy and Andrew Trimble, who earned his 200th Ulster cap against Munster a fortnight ago.

Stuart McCloskey and Luke Marshall continue their impressive partnership in midfield, while influential half backs Ruan Pienaar and Paddy Jackson occupy the half-back positions.

Kyle McCall, man of the match in Sunday's 23-24 win over Oyonnax, is named in the front row alongside captain Rory Best and Wiehahn Herbst, who has recovered from a calf strain.

Franco van der Merwe and Alan O'Connor will reunite in the second row, with Robbie Diack, Sean Reidy and Roger Wilson selected in the back row.

Chris Henry has been ruled out with a slight shoulder injury.

Form: Saracens have won all four of their games so far this season in the Champions Cup, only once before have they won five in a row in the competition and never before have they won all their pool games. Saracens have won 11 of their last 12 home games in the competition including their last seven in a row. Ulster have lost six of their seven games against Saracens, with their solitary positive result in this run coming in 2005. Saracens have scored exactly 100 points in their three home games against Ulster, conceding 51. Both sides come into Round 5 having won their last three Champions Cup fixtures.

The teams:

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

Ulster: 15 Jared Payne, 14 Andrew Trimble, 13 Luke Marshall, 12 Stuart McCloskey, 11 Craig Gilroy, 10 Paddy Jackson, 9 Ruan Pienaar, 8 Roger Wilson, 7 Sean Reidy, 6 Robbie Diack, 5 Franco van der Merwe,  4 Alan O’Connor, 3 Wiehahn Herbst, 2 Rory Best, 1 Kyle McCall
Replacements: 16 Rob Herring, 17 Callum Black, 18 Ricky Lutton, 19 Lewis Stevenson, 20 Clive Ross, 21 Paul Marshall, 22 Ian Humphreys, 23 Rory Scholes

Date: Saturday, January 16
Venue: Allianz Park
Kick-off: 15:15 GMT
Referee: Jérôme Garcès (France)
Assistant Referees: Mathieu Raynal (France), Mathieu Noirot (France)
TMO: Gilles Cogne (France)

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