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Preview: Saracens v Worcester

16th September 2011 10:07

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Andy Goode Worcester

Old stomping ground: Andy Goode

Reigning champions Saracens will welcome newly-promoted Worcester Warriors to Vicarage Road in the sole Aviva Premiership clash this Sunday.

In team news ahead of the game, Saracens make just two changes to their starting line-up. New signings Charlie Hodgson and Joe Maddock both make their first start in Sarries shirts and they take the place of Owen Farrell and James Short.

The only other change to the matchday 23 sees Hugh Vyvyan named on the bench and the second row could build on his all time Premiership appearance record of 238 should he appear.

Meanwhile, Warriors centre Alex Crockett will make his first appearance of the Aviva Premiership season this weekend.

Crockett is called up at inside centre to partner Scotland international Alex Grove, with Dale Rasmussen forced to sit out the game with a one-match suspension.

Head Coach Richard Hill makes a total of six changes to the team that faced Gloucester last weekend with a new half-back pairing will see Jonny Arr and Andy Goode combine.

Chris Jones makes his first league start since his summer switch from Sale Sharks and Bruce Douglas is called into the front-row.

Impressive England U20 ace Matt Kvesic is named in the back-row and will wear the number six jersey alongside Jake Abbott and captain Kai Horstmann. Neil Best misses the game with an arm injury but is expected to be fit for selection next week.

Prop Ceri Jones could make his first-ever appearance in a Worcester shirt as he is named on the bench while Sam Betty is also among the replacements as he prepares for a potential Aviva Premiership debut.

Hill admits Worcester will need to be at their best against a well-drilled Saracens team who will be difficult to breakdown.

"Saracens have got a very good defence and pride themselves on it," said Hill.

"They are a very physical and they play a territorial kicking game and don't play too much rugby in their own half.

"We haven't played a team that kicks a lot and our back three have not been tested with high balls or long racking kicks, but they will be tested at Saracens. They will kick for territory and our back three will have to make good decisions.

"Saracens also have a very definite attacking strategy. The rugby world know how Saracens play, it is just a question of stopping them. They are very efficient and organised."

Form: Saracens' only defeat in their last 13 Aviva Premiership Rugby matches was 15-20 to London Wasps in the opening day London Double Header at Twickenham. Sarries have lost only once at Vicarage Road in the Premiership since February 2010: 9-23 to Exeter on 30 October. Worcester Warriors' 8-29 defeat at Gloucester on Saturday ended a four match winning run in all competitions. The Warriors' only away victory in the competition since November 2008 was at Gloucester on 21 April 2009. Worcester have visited Vicarage Road on seven previous occasions in all competitions and won just once: 20-17 in the Premiership on 26 November 2006.

Rugby Union betting odds

The teams:

Saracens : 15 Alex Goode, 14 David Strettle, 13 Adam Powell, 12 Brad Barritt, 11 Joe Maddock, 10 Charlie Hodgson, 9 Neil de Kock, 8 Ernst Joubert, 7 Andy Saull, 6 Justin Melck, 5 Mouritz Botha, 4 Steve Borthwick (capt), 3 Carlos Nieto, 2 Schalk Brits, 1 Rhys Gill.
Replacements: 16 Jamie George, 17 Deon Carstens, 18 Mako Vunipola, 19 Hugh Vyvyan, 20 Will Fraser, 21 Ben Spencer, 22 Owen Farrell, 23 James Short.

Worcester: 15 Errie Claassens, 14 Marcel Garvey, 13 Alex Grove, 12 Alex Crockett, 11 Miles Benjamin, 10 Andy Goode, 9 Jonny Arr, 8 Kai Horstmann (capt), 7 Jake Abbott, 6 Matt Kvesic, 5 Craig Gillies, 4 Chris Jones, 3 Bruce Douglas, 2 Chris Fortey, 1 Matt Mullan.
Replacements: 16 Ceri Jones, 17 Ed Shervington, 18 Tevita Taumoepeau, 19 James Percival, 20 Sam Betty, 21 Ollie Frost, 22 Joe Carlisle, 23 Andy Short.

Date: Sunday, September 18
Venue: Vicarage Road
Kick-off: 14.15 BST (13.15 GMT)
Referee: Llyr ApGeraint-Roberts

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Group C
LV= Cup Table
PosTeamPPts
1Bath419
2Ospreys46
3Harlequins45
4Worcester45