Planet Rugby

Preview: Connacht v Saracens

10th October 2013 12:36

Share:

Saracens v Toulon: Owen Farrell

Owen Farrell: Back at fly-half

Saracens face a potentially tricky start to their Heineken Cup campaign on Friday as they visit Connacht at the Galway Sportsground.

The Premiership side are considered contenders for the European crown, reaching the semi-final stage last season, but their director of rugby Mark McCall has warned that Friday's trip provides a tough first-round fixture for Sarries.

"I know from experience that we have one of the trickiest starts you could ask for in Galway," McCall told the ERC website.

"That's not just opinion, the facts speak for themselves. Over the last three years, Connacht have beaten Biarritz and Harlequins in Galway so unless you take your A-game and have the right mindset, you will get the same result those teams did.

"There is always a great crowd in Galway, they have good players and a top coach in Pat Lam and have recruited really well, that's why they get the scalps they have."

For Connacht, lock Michael Swift returns to the starting line-up for Friday's clash.

The province's highest capped player will captain his side in the Heineken Cup Pool 3 clash. Head coach Pat Lam has made a number of changes to the side that started against Treviso last week.

Rodney Ah You, on what will be his 50th appearance for the province, will start at tighthead prop and is joined in the front-row by Brett Wilkinson and hooker Sean Henry.

Galway man John Muldoon is named in the back-row at blindside flanker, making his ninth Heineken Cup appearance for Connacht.

In the backs, Fionn Carr moves to the right wing, allowing Danie Poolman to start on the left. Irish international Robbie Henshaw returns to outside centre this week and partners new signing James So'oialo who makes his debut at the Sportsground.

There is cover from the replacements bench in the form of hooker Jason Harris-Wright who returns from injury. Connacht Academy and former Ireland U20 prop Peter Reilly could make his debut.

Meanwhile for Saracens, Will Fraser retains his place at openside flanker with George Kruis continuing at lock forward as the English make six changes to the starting pack.

Owen Farrell returns at fly-half, with Alex Goode reverting to his more accustomed full-back role. Chris Wyles and Joel Tomkins continue to partner each other in the centres, and David Strettle returns to the left wing.

"We have got to be right mentally and physically. Connacht really step it up in this competition - I know that from my experiences in Ireland," said McCall.

"It's a really good, passionate atmosphere there and we have to be on our game - but having to grind out a victory against Wasps will not have done us any harm.

The teams:

Connacht: 15 Gavin Duffy, 14 Fionn Carr, 13 Robbie Henshaw, 12 James So'oialo, 11 Danie Poolman, 10 Dan Parks, 9 Kieran Marmion, 8 George Naoupu, 7 Jake Heenan, 6 John Muldoon, 5 Craig Clarke, 4 Michael Swift (c), 3 Rodney Ah You, 2 Sean Henry, 1 Brett Wilkinson.
Replacements: 16 Jason Harris-Wright, 17 Peter Reilly, 18 JP Cooney, 19 Aly Muldowney, 20 Andrew Brown, 21 Paul O'Donohoe, 22 Craig Ronaldson, 23 Tiernan O'Halloran

Saracens: 15 Alex Goode, 14 Chris Ashton, 12 Joel Tomkins, 12 Chris Wyles, 11 David Strettle, 10 Owen Farrell, 9 Neil de Kock, 8 Billy Vunipola, 7 Will Fraser, 6 Kelly Brown, 5 George Kruis, 4 Steve Borthwick (c), 3 Matt Stevens, 2 Schalk Britz, 1 Mako Vunipola.
Replacements: 16 Jamie George, 17 Rhys Gill, 18 James Johnston, 19 Alastair Hargreaves, 20 Ernst Joubert, 21 Richard Wigglesworth, 22 Duncan Taylor, 23 Michael Tagicakibau.

Date: Friday, October 11th
Venue: Galway Sportsground
Kick-off: 20:00 BST (19.00 GMT)
Referee: Pascal Gauzere (FFR)

Forthcoming Fixtures
FixtureDetails
All times are local
Aviva Premiership
Friday , September 19
Gloucester vs Exeter19:45
Saturday , September 20
Sale vs London Welsh14:00
London Irish vs Saracens15:00
Harlequins vs Wasps15:00
Bath vs Leicester15:15
Sunday , September 21
Newcastle vs Northampton14:00
More Aviva Premiership fixtures
Guinness PRO12
Friday , September 19
Munster vs Zebre19:30
Cardiff Blues vs Ulster19:35
Connacht vs Leinster19:35
Saturday , September 20
Newport Gwent D'gons vs Glasgow14:40
Scarlets vs Benetton Treviso18:00
Sunday , September 21
Ospreys vs Edinburgh16:00
More Guinness PRO12 fixtures
Top 14
Friday , September 19
Brive vs Toulon18:00
Saturday , September 20
Racing Metro Paris vs Toulouse18:00
La Rochelle vs Bordeaux-Begles18:00
Grenoble vs Bayonne18:00
Castres vs Oyonnax18:00
Clermont Auvergne vs Lyon18:00
Montpellier vs Stade Francais18:00
More Top 14 fixtures
Currie Cup
Friday , September 19
Lions vs Pumas19:10
Saturday , September 20
Western Province vs Griquas15:00
Blue Bulls vs Sharks17:05
Eastern Province Kings vs Cheetahs19:10
More Currie Cup fixtures
ITM Cup
Thursday , September 18
Northland vs TaranakiNorthland vs Taranaki Preview
Friday , September 19
Counties Manukau vs CanterburyCounties Manukau vs Canterbury Preview
More ITM Cup fixtures
Recent Results
FixtureDetails
All times are local
ITM Cup
Wednesday, September 17
Southland 14 - 38 TasmanSouthland vs Tasman Report
More ITM Cup results
Aviva Premiership
Sunday , September 14
Wasps 20 - 16 NorthamptonWasps vs Northampton Report
Newcastle 18 - 20 London IrishNewcastle vs London Irish Report
More Aviva Premiership results
Guinness PRO12
Cardiff Blues 12 - 33 GlasgowCardiff Blues vs Glasgow Report
More Guinness PRO12 results
Top 14
Bordeaux-Begles 27 - 21 MontpellierBordeaux-Begles vs Montpellier Report
More Top 14 results
ITM Cup
Waikato 26 - 21 Counties ManukauWaikato vs Counties Manukau Report
Hawkes Bay 41 - 0 Otago
More ITM Cup results
Aviva Premiership
Saturday , September 13
Gloucester 34 - 27 Sale SharksGloucester vs Sale Sharks Report
Bath 53 - 26 London WelshBath vs London Welsh Report
Exeter 20 - 24 LeicesterExeter vs Leicester Report
More Aviva Premiership results
Rugby Championship
New Zealand 14 - 10 South AfricaNew Zealand vs South Africa Report
Australia 32 - 25 ArgentinaAustralia vs Argentina Report
More Rugby Championship results
Guinness PRO12
Leinster 42 - 12 ScarletsLeinster vs Scarlets Report
More Guinness PRO12 results
Top 14
Toulouse 9 - 13 Clermont AuvergneToulouse vs Clermont Auvergne Report
Bayonne 23 - 6 Brive
Oyonnax 40 - 27 Grenoble
Racing Metro Paris 28 - 11 LyonRacing Metro Paris vs Lyon Report
Toulon 24 - 28 Stade FrancaisToulon vs Stade Francais Report
More Top 14 results
Currie Cup
Griquas 31 - 27 PumasGriquas vs Pumas Report
Lions 35 - 33 Western ProvinceLions vs Western Province Report
Cheetahs 30 - 30 SharksCheetahs vs Sharks Report
More Currie Cup results
ITM Cup
Bay Of Plenty 12 - 27 AucklandBay Of Plenty vs Auckland Report
Southland 36 - 34 Northland
More ITM Cup results
Aviva Premiership
Friday , September 12
Harlequins 0 - 39 SaracensHarlequins vs Saracens Report
More Aviva Premiership results
Guinness PRO12
Benetton Treviso 10 - 21 MunsterBenetton Treviso vs Munster Report
More Guinness PRO12 results
Aviva Premiership Table
PosTeamPPts
1Saracens29
2Bath29
3Leicester Tigers29
4Exeter26
5Northampton26