Planet Rugby

Preview: Saracens v Worcester

28th November 2008 12:37

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MIchael Owen touches down

Michael Owen: Moving into the second row

Saracens welcome back internationals Matias Aguero, Fabio Ongaro and Kameli Ratuvou to their starting line-up for Sunday's Guinness Premiership clash against Worcester Warriors at Vicarage Road.

The Italian front row duo and the Pacific Islands winger return to a team that also sees Director of Rugby Eddie Jones name a new second row partnership.

Former Wales captain Michael Owen swaps the number eight jersey to join Hugh Vyvyan at lock while in the back row, Ben Skirving comes in at the back of the scrum with Wikus van Heerden and Andy Saull named on the flanks.

"The internationals who have returned to the team have performed very well for their countries in the past few weeks," said Jones.

"Matias and Fabio were also in good form for us before they joined up with Italy and Kameli scored a superb try last week for the Islanders so all three are playing well.

"We've made a few positional changes in the pack after reviewing the way we have played in the past few weeks. Michael is an experienced international who is very capable of playing at second row and we feel that combined with the make-up of the back row, it gives us a better balance across the team."

Saracens go into the game on the back of two successive league defeats and Jones is looking for his team to put that right.

"Worcester come to us on the back of two very good performances in the Guinness Premiership whereas our form has not been so good. However, I am expecting the players to put that right on Sunday," continued Jones.

In other team news, Moses Rauluni takes a place on the bench following international duty. Cencus Johnston, who is set to return from a short trip to New Zealand later today, could also feature on the bench but a decision will be taken over the weekend.

In injury news, Matt Cairns has been ruled out for at least six weeks after suffering a broken wrist in last week's clash against London Irish, but there is better news with regards to Chris Jack who is set to return next week from a knee injury. Richard Haughton has also started training following his broken metatarsal and is set to return before Christmas.

Meanwhile, Samoan international Loki Crichton is handed a starting spot for Worcester, his third start in the league this season as Mike Ruddock's men hunt a third successive victory in the top flight.

Director of Rugby Ruddock is forced into a number of changes with Matthew Jones (foot) and Chris Latham (knee) ruled out of the trip to London.

New Zealand ace Rico Gear returns on the wing with Chris Pennell moving to full-back in the side captained by Pat Sanderson.

Aleki Lutui is handing a starting spot at hooker while young guns Joe Carlisle and Alex Grove are named among the replacements.

"It is good that we have got international players to come in and cover internationals that are going out," said Ruddock.

"Even though we have lost players of great significance for us we have got quality coming in, there is no doubt about that.

"Loki Crichton did really well when he came off the bench when he came off the bench against Newcastle and kicked some great goals for us. We scored two nice tries when he was outside half and he tackled very well. He has a big opportunity and I know he will want to take that.

"Chris Pennell will move to full-back and Rico Gear, who is a talented and world-class player, comes in on the wing.

"On paper the replacements we have brought in are as equally as good, it is up to them to live up to their reputations and deliver in the same way that Matthew Jones and Chris Latham have."

Form: Saracens have now slipped to successive Guinness Premiership defeats to Gloucester and London Irish. Worcester Warriors have done exactly the reverse and won their last two games after a three game losing run in the Premiership. The Warriors won 17-9 at Sale in their most recent away game and are attempting to secure successive away wins in the competition for the first time since 2006/07. Saracens won both encounters with Worcester in the Guinness Premiership last season, to reverse what happened the previous year. The Warriors have won just once in six previous visits to Vicarage Road in all competitions: 20-17 in the Premiership on 26 November 2006.

The teams:

Saracens: 15 Alex Goode, 14 Kameli Ratuvou, 13 Adam Powell, 12 Andy Farrell (c), 11 Noah Cato, 10 Glen Jackson, 9 Neil de Kock, 8 Ben Skirving, 7 Andy Saull, 6 Wikus van Heerden, 5 Hugh Vyvyan, 4 Michael Owen, 3 Cobus Visagie, 2 Fabio Ongaro, 1 Matias Aguero.

Replacements: 16 Andy Kyriacou, 17 Tom Mercey, 18 Tom Ryder, 19 Kris Chesney, 20 Moses Rauluni, 21 Bradley Barritt, 22 Kevin Sorrell.

Worcester: 15 Chris Pennell, 14 Rico Gear, 13 Dale Rasmussen, 12 Sam Tuitupou, 11 Miles Benjamin, 10 Loki Crichton, 9 Matt Powell, 8 Kai Horstmann, 7 Pat Sanderson (c), 6 Netani Talei, 5 Craig Gillies, 4 Greg Rawlinson, 3 Tevita Taumoepeau, 2 Aleki Lutui, 1 Matt Mullan.

Replacements: 16 Chris Horsman, 17 Chris Fortey, 18 Will Bowley, 19 Matt Cox, 20 Ben Jones, 21 Joe Carlisle, 22 Alex Grove.

Date: Sunday, November 30

Venue: Vicarage Road

Kick-off: 15.00 GMT

Referee: Dean Richards

Touch judges: Paul Dix, Andy Watson

Television match official: Roy Marfleet

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