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Preview: Saracens v Gloucester

30th December 2011 13:13


saracens v gloucester

Always close: Sarries v Gloucester

Saracens have made a number of changes to their team for Gloucester's visit to Vicarage Road on New Year's Day.

With Sarries playing their second game in five days, Director of Rugby Mark McCall rotates his squad.

Jamie George, Matt Stevens, Mouritz Botha and Jackson Wray all start in the forwards while there are two changes in the backs.

David Strettle misses out to the shoulder injury he picked up in the victory over Harlequins at Twickenham earlier this week and Owen Farrell switches to the bench.

Chris Wyles and Adam Powell come into the starting line-up.

Schalk Brits, Carlos Nieto and John Smit are among those named on the bench.

Meanwhile, Gloucester Head Coach Bryan Redpath has named an unchanged starting line up.

Redpath keeps faith with the starting line up that delivered Christmas cheer to the Kingsholm crowd on Boxing Day with the 39-10 victory over London Wasps.

In fact the only change to the matchday 23 sees Matias Cortese replace Darren Dawidiuk as the replacement hooker.

The challenge for Gloucester is clear - Saracens have lost just two Aviva Premiership Rugby matches since 2 January 2010 and have won their last dozen encounters at Vicarage Road in all competitions since Clermont won there on 21 January in the Heineken Cup.

The last two encounters between the two sides have been incredibly close. Saracens edged the Aviva Premiership semi-final last May 12-10 and took the spoils at Kingsholm earlier this season 19-17.

Talking to the media ahead of the game, Redpath stressed that it's important for Gloucester to build upon what they did against Wasps and try and take the game to Saracens on Sunday.

"We highlighted previously that a bit of confidence was lacking in our game and went out with a mindset that we were going to try and play and impose our game on Wasps and we did that," he said.

"However, we'll go down to Watford with the underdog tag because Saracens are a very good side and you can't hide from that.

"They're very strong defensively and have good tactical kickers but we have to try and impose our game on them as well. We can't go down there with a fear factor, we have to go there with nothing to lose and try to challenge them."

Form: Saracens have lost just two Aviva Premiership Rugby matches since 2 January 2010: 15-20 to Wasps at Twickenham and 8-30 at Northampton. Sarries have won their last dozen encounters at Vicarage Road in all competitions since Clermont won there on 21 January in the Heineken Cup. Gloucester Rugby have recorded three successive wins in all competitions, but have won just once on the road in the Premiership since February: 24-19 at Exeter on 5 November. Saracens have taken the last three meetings against Gloucester including last season's semi-final in Watford. Gloucester have not won at Vicarage Road since 16 November 2008.

Rugby Union betting odds

The teams:

Saracens: 15 Alex Goode, 14 Chris Wyles, 13 Adam Powell, 12 Brad Barritt, 11 James Short, 10 Charlie Hodgson, 9 Peter Stringer, 8 Jackson Wray, 7 Andy Saull, 6 Kelly Brown, 5 Mouritz Botha, 4 Steve Borthwick (c), 3 Matt Stevens, 2 Jamie George, 1 Rhys Gill.
Replacements: 16 Schalk Brits, 17 John Smit, 18 Carlos Nieto, 19 George Kruis, 20 Justin Melck, 21 Ben Spencer, 22 Owen Farrell, 23 Duncan Taylor.

Gloucester : 15 Olly Morgan, 14 Jonny May, 13 Henry Trinder, 12 Eliota Fuimaono-Sapolu, 11 James Simpson-Daniel, 10 Freddie Burns, 9 Rory Lawson, 8 Luke Narraway (c) 7 Akapusi Qera, 6 Alasdair Strokosch, 5 Jim Hamilton, 4 Peter Buxton, 3 Rupert Harden, 2 Scott Lawson, 1 Nick Wood.
Replacements: 16 Matias Cortese, 17 Dan Murphy, 18 Dario Chistolini, 19 Brett Deacon, 20 Matt Cox, 21 Dave Lewis, 22 Ryan Mills, 23 Charlie Sharples

Date: Sunday, January 1
Venue: Vicarage Road
Kick-off: 15.00 GMT
Referee: Sean Davey

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Exeter vs Saracens16:30
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Saracens vs London Welsh15:00
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Saracens vs London Irish15:00
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Saracens 24 - 31 NorthamptonSaracens vs Northampton Report
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