Planet Rugby

Preview: Saracens v Newcastle

25th March 2011 11:46

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SKY_MOBILE Matt Stevens -Saracens

Second start: Matt Stevens

After a three-week break, second-placed Saracens return to Aviva Premiership action on Sunday against Newcastle Falcons at Vicarage Road.

In team news ahead of the game, Matt Stevens gets his second start for the club to come in at loosehead prop while second-row Hayden Smith, scrum-half Neil De Kock and wing James Short return to the starting XV.

Chris Wyles is named at outside centre with Adam Powell continuing his return from injury on the bench. David Strettle, fresh from international duty with England, starts at wing while Scottish back-row forward Kelly Brown is on the bench.

Meanwhile, second-bottom Newcastle will be hoping the underdog factor plays a part when they tackle the side who are just one spot off the top.

The fixture comes on the back of the Falcons' painful LV= Cup final defeat to Gloucester last weekend so they will be hoping for a big response in Watford.

Will Welch's return is one of several changes to the line-up that lost at Franklin's Gardens as Brent Wilson, Tane Tu'ipulotu, Alex Tait, Kieran Brookes and Luke Fielden miss out.

Falcons boss Alan Tait has handed new signing Rikki Sheriffe a start on the wing as the former Bradford Bulls wing ace make his premiership bow in the colours of the Falcons.

The previous meeting between the two sides was back in October when the Falcons suffered the heart-break of conceding a last gasp penalty to lose the match 15-13 at Kingston Park.

Tait admits it was a bitter pill to swallow, saying: "It was probably the most disappointing game I've experienced at Kingston Park. It was a tough one to take after playing really well.

"Everything has changed now. The ground has changed, the pitches are firm and all these guys can come into their own now.

"It will take a lot of effort and energy from our guys on Sunday.

"[Saracens] are a good side and they've gone back to basics. They don't play much rugby in their own half and they are a typical strong side.

"They put a lot of pressure on you and their back row is probably one of the best back rows in the country. I think the back row in modern rugby dictates things out there.

"It's going to be a tough challenge for our lads but we've got to go down there and I'm sure if we play the right tactics and the right game we can be more than a match for them," he said.

Form: Saracens have won their last four matches against Newcastle in all competitions, whilst the Falcons have won just once at Vicarage Road since 2001: 22-19 in the Premiership on 30 December 2007. Saracens have won their last six matches in all competitions since their 14-24 defeat at home to Clermont Auvergne on 21 January. Saracens only home defeat in the Premiership since last February was 9-23 to Exeter Chiefs on 30 October. Newcastle Falcons' three game winning run in all competitions came to an end in the final of the Anglo-Welsh Cup in Northampton on Sunday. The Falcons have won just once away from home in the Premiership this season: 22-5 at Leeds on 27 February.

The teams:

Saracens: 15 Alex Goode, 14 David Strettle, 13 Chris Wyles, 12 Brad Barritt, 11 James Short, 10 Owen Farrell, 9 Neil de Kock, 8 Ernst Joubert, 7 Andy Saull, 6 Justin Melck, 5 Hayden Smith, 4 Steve Borthwick (capt), 3 Carlos Nieto, 2 Schalk Brits, 1 Matt Stevens.
Replacements: 16 Jamie George, 17 Jared Saunders, 18 Petrus du Plessis, 19 Hugh Vyvyan, 20 Kelly Brown, 21 Richard Wigglesworth, 22 Adam Powell, 23 Noah Cato.

Newcastle: 15 Tom Catterick, 14 Alex Tait, 13 Luke Eves, 12 James Fitzpatrick, 11 Rikki Sheriffe, 10 Jimmy Gopperth, 9 Chris Pilgrim, 8 Ally Hogg, 7 Will Welch, 6 Tim Swinson, 5 Andrew VD Heijden, 4 James Hudson, 3 James Hall, 2 Matt Thompson, 1 Jon Golding.
Replacements: 16 Rob Vickers, 17 Grant Shiells, 18 Kieran Brookes, 19 Mark Wilson, 20 Alex Gray, 21 Micky Young, 22 Tane Tu'ipulotu, 23 Joel Hodgson.

Date: Sunday, March 27
Kick-off: 15:00
Venue: Vicarage Road
Referee: Martin Fox

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