Preview: Saracens v Worcester Warriors

Date published: September 2 2016

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Saracens have named their side to face Worcester Warriors in Round one of the Premiership in Saturday’s London Double Header at Twickenham.

It will be a day of personal milestones for Saracens players at Twickenham with wing Chris Ashton making his 100th appearance for the club, and hooker Jamie George his 150th for the Men in Black.

There will also be three debutants on the day, with summer signings Schalk Burger, Alex Lozowski and Sean Maitland all named in the starting XV.

Hooker Jamie George will pack down alongside Mako Vunipola (loosehead prop) and Petrus Du Plessis (tighthead prop) in the front row. Maro Itoje and George Kruis partner each other at lock forward whilst new-face Schalk Burger will make his Saracens bow from openside flanker. Jackson Wray is named at blindside flanker whilst Billy Vunipola starts at number eight.

In the halves, Richard Wigglesworth will wear the number nine jersey as he partners Alex Lozowski, with the summer signing from Wasps making his debut at fly-half.

In the backs, Brad Barritt skippers the side from inside centre where he is partnered by Marcelo Bosch in the Saracens midfield, with Sean Maitland taking his place on the left wing in his first competitive outing for his new club. Chris Ashton will bring up a century of appearances for the club on the right wing with Alex Goode named at full-back.

Speaking ahead of the game, director of rugby Mark McCall said: “Our players enjoy playing at Twickenham, this year we’re against Worcester again and they’ve recruited really well in the summer so it’s going to be a really tough fixture to start the season with.

“These first six games are generally quite important, a tough run of games but we do have our full squad available to us and there are other times during the year that’s not the case and we have to do without a fair chunk of our players for a period of time. While we’ve got our full squad we have to capitalise on that.”

On Chris Ashton’s and Jamie George’s personal milestones, McCall added: “Chris has played a huge role in helping us become a side that has consistently challenged for the top honours since his arrival four years ago.

“Not only has he been a top performer for us on the field he has made a significant contribution to the environment off the pitch with his hard-work and humility.

“In Jamie’s case, it’s another impressive landmark for a player who is reaping the rewards for his patience earlier in his career and his diligent and conscientious approach to his work. Both players deserve the big stage to celebrate such achievements.”

Meanwhile, new Warriors signings Ben Te’o and Jackson Willison are set for their Premiership debuts.

The pair, who joined Worcester this summer, are named in the starting line-up as Warriors take on the reigning Premiership and European champions.

Head Coach Carl Hogg also hands a start to Jonny Arr, who is set for his first competitive appearance in eight months after returning from injury.

Ryan Lamb is given the nod at fly-half while Te’o and Wynand Olivier will form the midfield partnership.

Dean Hammond will also make his first competitive start since January with Cooper Vuna on the opposite wing and Willison slotting in at full-back.

In the forwards, Nick Schonert returns to the front row while GJ van Velze skippers the side from the back row.

Academy product Christian Scotland-Williamson is named on the bench and could make his first competitive appearance since September 2014.

Hogg said: “We know the challenges Saracens are going to bring to try and knock us off stride but that’s part and parcel of rugby.

“We’re aware of what they do and the philosophy of their game but it’s very much about how we conduct ourselves.

“They’re a very accurate side and if you make a mistake they’ll turn you over.

“On 2pm this Saturday afternoon it’s about Worcester Warriors and what we are as a group collectively, both in spirit and culturally, and it’s about getting our game on the field.”

Form: Saracens concluded last season with a run of ten successive victories in all competitions to lift the Premiership and European Champions Cup trophies. Saracens have won on the opening weekend of the past four seasons, three of those being London Double Header encounters. Worcester Warriors participate in the London Double Header for the second time, after also taking part in 2015. The Warriors lost their last four games of last season but did start off their 2015/16 Premiership campaign with a single point victory over the Saints at Sixways. Saracens have won their last six matches against Worcester in all tournaments, including a 48-18 victory during last season’s London Double Header at Twickenham on 28 November.

The teams:

Saracens: 15 Alex Goode, 14 Chris Ashton, 13 Marcelo Bosch, 12 Brad Barritt (c), 11 Sean Maitland, 10 Alex Lozowski, 9 Richard Wigglesworth, 8 Billy Vunipola, 7 Schalk Burger, 6 Jackson Wray, 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 Michael Rhodes, 21 Ben Spencer, 22 Duncan Taylor, 23 Mike Ellery

Worcester Warriors: 15 Jackson Willison, 14 Dean Hammond, 13 Wynand Olivier, 12 Ben Te’o, 11 Cooper Vuna, 10 Ryan Lamb, 9 Jonny Arr, 8 GJ van Velze (c), 7 Marco Mama, 6 Phil Dowson, 5 Darren Barry, 4 Tevita Cavubati, 3 Nick Schonert, 2 Niall Annett, 1 Val Rapava Ruskin
Replacements: 16 Jaba Bregvadze, 17 Na’ama Leleimalefaga, 18 James Johnston, 19 Christian Scotland-Williamson, 20 Alafoti Faosiliva, 21 Luke Baldwin, 22 Tom Heathcote, 23 Perry Humphreys

 

Date: Saturday, September 3
Venue: Twickenham
Kick-off: 14:00 BST (13:00 GMT)
Referee: Matt Carley
Assistant Referees: Simon McConnell, Rger Bailef
TMO: Graham Hughes

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