Preview: Wasps v Saracens

Date published: December 24 2015

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Wasps’ director of rugby Dai Young has named his side to take on Saracens at the Ricoh Arena this Sunday.

In the backline, there are starts for Dan Robson at scrum-half and Alapati Leiua at 12, who has made his previous three appearances from the bench this season, since returning from injury.

There is a new-look back row, as George Smith and Nathan Hughes are forced to miss the game through injury. Skipper James Haskell is joined by Thomas Young and Guy Thompson, who both impressed in Monday’s 'A' league win and make their second starts of the season.

Joe Launchbury and James Gaskell form the second row partnership, with Wales’ international Bradley Davies ready to provide reinforcement from the bench.

Young said: “We were delighted with last weekend’s high quality team performance in Bath, when the chips were down in Europe, but now all attention switches back to the Premiership.

“The challenge gets no easier with Premiership champions Saracens coming to the Ricoh Arena. They have been the form team not only in England, but in Europe so far this season and are certainly setting the standards that we are all chasing.

“It’s a massive challenge for us but we are going into it with a smile on our faces, on the back of a very good performance against Bath. Bath are a quality team, but we know we will have to step up another gear for this game and be at our absolute best to get the result we want.”

Meanwhile, the reigning Premiership champions will be skippered by centre Brad Barritt, who continues to lead the side in the absence of club captain, Alistair Hargreaves.

In the backs, Alex Goode retains the number 15 shirt and the in-form full-back is joined by Chris Ashton and Chris Wyles in the Sarries back three.

In midfield, Brad Barritt will be joined by Scotland international Duncan Taylor, with Taylor named at outside centre – Marcelo Bosch is named on the bench.

Owen Farrell continues at fly-half with scrum-half Richard Wigglesworth also named to start.

Up front, Jamie George rotates with Schalk Brits and comes back into the starting XV and will pack down with Mako Vunipola (loosehead prop) and Petrus Du Plessis (tighthead). England international George Kruis is back after a slight knock, and will start at second row alongside Maro Itoje.

In the back row, Will Fraser starts at openside flanker with Michael Rhodes named on the opposite flank. Billy Vunipola will wear the Saracens number eight jersey against his former club.

Form: The last side to beat Sarries was Exeter at Allianz Park in Aviva Premiership Rugby last May. Saracens have won their last eight fixtures with Wasps in all competitions since Wasps 20-15 victory in the London double header in September 2011. Saracens have visited the Ricoh Arena just twice before, beating Wasps there in March 2015 but losing the European Cup semi-final to Munster in 2008.

The teams:

Wasps: 15 Rob Miller, 14 Frank Halai, 13 Elliot Daly, 12 Alapati Leiua, 11 Charles Piutau, 10 Jimmy Gopperth, 9 Dan Robson, 8 Guy Thompson, 7 Thomas Young, 6 James Haskell (c), 5 James Gaskell, 4 Joe Launchbury, 3 Lorenzo Cittadini, 2 Ashley Johnson, 1 Matt Mullan
Replacements: 16 Edd Shervington, 17 Simon McIntyre, 18 Phil Swainston, 19 Bradley Davies, 20 Sam Jones, 21 Joe Simpson, 22 Ruaridh Jackson, 23 Sailosi Tagicakibau

Saracens: 15 Alex Goode, 14 Chris Ashton, 13 Duncan Taylor, 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 Kelly Brown, 21 Ben Spencer, 22 Charlie Hodgson, 23 Marcelo Bosch

Date: Sunday, December 27
Venue: Ricoh Arena
Kick-off: 14:00 GMT
Referee: JP Doyle
Assistant Referees: Simon McConnell, Roger Baileff
TMO: Trevor Fisher

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