Planet Rugby

Preview: Saracens v London Irish

07th February 2014 11:03

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george skivington london irish

Skipper: George Skivington

London Irish have recalled George Skivington to their starting line-up to captain the side against Saracens at Allianz Park on Saturday.

James O'Connor, who was a late withdrawal against Scarlets last weekend, has recovered to start at full-back.

Matt Parr, David Paice and Jamie Hagan make up the front row with George Skivington partnering Nic Rouse in the second row. Kieran Low and Blair Cowan, who both played for Scotland A against England Saxons last Friday evening, will play alongside Ofisa Treviranus in the back-row.

Tomás O'Leary and Shane Geraghty will continue at half back with Eamonn Sheridan and Fergus Mulchrone in the centre. Andrew Fenby, Topsy Ojo and O'Connor make up the back-three.

"We have had this game on the radar for a few weeks now and the squad and coaches are looking forward to the challenge," said Exiles boss Brian Smith.

"Saracens have had a good season and have been very good at home. That said, we have prepared well and will go there looking to get a result."

Meanwhile, England Saxons duo Jamie George and George Kruis return to the Saracens squad with hooker Jamie George starting at hooker and lock forward Kruis named among the replacements.

Elsewhere, Ben Ransom continues at full-back and joins David Strettle and Chris Ashton in the Saracens back three.

Marcelo Bosch and Chris Wyles line up in the centres, whilst Charlie Hodgson and Neil de Kock make up an experienced half-back pairing.

In the pack, Mouritz Botha partners captain Steve Borthwick at lock, and in the back row Jacques Burger makes his first Premiership appearance since November.

On the bench, England centre Joel Tomkins returns to the Saracens squad after recovering from a knee injury, and he is joined by academy flanker Matt Hankin, who could make his first Premiership appearance for the club.

Form: Sarries bowed out of Aviva Premiership action for last month's break in scintillating form, their only loss coming in October against fellow high-fliers Northampton Saints. Mark McCall's troops have won their last 11 matches on home turf. To make matters more daunting for the visitors, Irish have only won once away in the Aviva Premiership since January 2013 - a 20-18 victory against Worcester Warriors in Round 2 this year. However, just one loss in the last five games in all competitions suggests all signs are pointing upwards for Brian Smith's men.

The teams:

Saracens: 15 Ben Ransom 14 Chris Ashton, 13 Marcelo Bosch, 12 Chris Wyles, 11 David Strettle 10 Charlie Hodgson, 9 Neil de Kock, 8 Ernst Joubert 7 Jacques Burger, 6 Jackson Wray, 5 Mouritz Botha, 4 Steve Borthwick (c), 3 Matt Stevens, 2 Jamie George, 1 Richard Barrington.
Replacements: 16 Schalk Brits, 17 Rhys Gill, 18 James Johnston, 19 George Kruis, 20 Matt Hankin, 21 Richard Wigglesworth, 22 Joel Tomkins, 23 Jack Wilson.

London Irish: 15 James O'Connor, 14 Topsy Ojo, 13 Fergus Mulchrone, 12 Eamonn Sheridan, 11 Andrew Fenby, 10 Shane Geraghty, 9 Tomás O'Leary, 8 Ofisa Treviranus, 7 Blair Cowan, 6 Kieran Low, 5 George Skivington, 4 Nic Rouse, 3 Jamie Hagan, 2 David Paice, 1 Matt Parr
Replacements: 16 Jimmy Stevens, 17 John Yapp, 18 Leo Halavatau, 19 Jebb Sinclair, 20 Gerard Ellis, 21 Alex Lewington, 22 Ian Humphreys, 23 Sean Kennedy

Date: Saturday, February 8
Venue: Allianz Park
Kickoff: 15:00 GMT
Referee: Dean Richards
Assistant Referees: Nigel Carrick, Andy Watson
TMO: Keith Lewis

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