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Preview: Saracens v Gloucester

30th November 2012 06:19

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SKY_MOBILE Steve Borthwick - Saracens

Steve Borthwick: 100th game for Sarries

Saracens captain Steve Borthwick will make his 100th appearance for the club in Saturday's Premiership clash with Gloucester at Vicarage Road.

Fly-half Charlie Hodgson returns from injury to start the match having recovered from the fractured cheek he suffered against Wasps four weeks ago. Rhys Gill is also back from a rib injury to start in the front row.

Fresh from international duty with the USA, Chris Wyles starts at full-back and Neil de Kock also comes into the team at scrum-half.

Kelly Brown and Schalk Brits are on a rest week following their involvement in the autumn internationals while Adam Powell, Jackson Wray, Jacques Burger, Justin Melck and Joe Maddock all miss out through injury.

Meanwhile, with Freddie Burns away on England duty, Billy Twelvetrees will move to fly-half for Gloucester.

With Twelvetrees wearing the ten shirt, Mike Tindall moves from outside to inside centre and will be partnered in the midfield by Tim Molenaar.

The only other change to the back-line that started against Sale Sharks last weekend sees Martyn Thomas replace Shane Monahan on the left wing.

Gloucester director of rugby Nigel Davies also keeps faith with the majority of the pack that was on duty against the Sharks, although Darren Dawidiuk is back at hooker for his first appearance since September 22.

It's second versus third in the Aviva Premiership, with the teams both on 28 points, and both fixtures last season were incredibly tight.

Saracens have slipped to back to back defeats in all competitions but have only lost once in their last 17 Premiership fixtures at Vicarage Road.

Accordingly, Davies knows that Sunday's game will present a stern test.

"I'm sure Saracens won't have been impressed with their performance, or their result, against Worcester last Friday and will pick it up against us this weekend," he said.

"It's a difficult place to go and play, it's one of the smallest pitches in the league, and they know how to play that field.

"You have to be smart. You have to play a similar game to them in some ways. But you also have to be prepared to step up and take your game to them.

"They play good territory, they have a big chase and put a lot of pressure on to you. If you're not ready for it, then you'll get caught out."

Form: Saracens have slipped to back to back defeats in all competitions, whilst Sarries only Premiership defeat at Vicarage Road in their last 17 matches was 19-20 to Leicester on 19 February. Gloucester Rugby are currently the best side in Aviva Premiership Rugby on current form having picked up 21 league points from their last six games. Gloucester's only reversal in the competition since the opening round was 25-28 to Harlequins on 3 November. Saracens are unbeaten in their last four encounters with Gloucester, whilst the Cherry & Whites have not been victorious at Vicarage Road since 16 November 2008.

The teams:

Saracens: 15 Chris Wyles, 14 David Strettle, 13 Joel Tomkins, 12 Duncan Taylor, 11 James Short, 10 Charlie Hodgson, 9 Neil de Kock, 8 Ernst Joubert, 7 Will Fraser, 6 George Kruis, 5 Mouritz Botha, 4 Steve Borthwick (c), 3 Matt Stevens, 2 John Smit, 1 Rhys Gill.
Replacements: 16 Jamie George, 17 Nick Auterac, 18 Petrus du Plessis, 19 Alistair Hargreaves, 20 Andy Saull, 21 Richard Wigglesworth, 22 Nils Mordt, 23 Kameli Ratuvou.

Gloucester: 15 Rob Cook, 14 Charlie Sharples, 13 Tim Molenaar, 12 Mike Tindall, 11 Martyn Thomas, 10 Billy Twelvetrees, 9 Jimmy Cowan, 8 Sione Kalamafoni, 7 Akapusi Qera, 6 Tom Savage, 5 Jim Hamilton (c), 4 Will James, 3 Rupert Harden, 2 Darren Dawidiuk, 1 Dan Murphy.
Replacements: 16 Koree Britton, 17 Nick Wood, 18 Shaun Knight, 19 Peter Buxton, 20 Matt Cox, 21 Dan Robson, 22 Tim Taylor, 23 Shane Monahan.

Date: Sunday, December 2
Kick-off: 15:00
Venue: Vicarage Road
Referee: Sean Davey
Assistant referees: Stuart Terheege, Kevin Stewart
Television match official: Graham Hughes
Timekeeper: Roy Marfleet
Assessor: Paul Bridgman

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