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Preview: London Welsh v Saracens

05th October 2012 11:55

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Gavin Henson London Welsh press

Starting at 10: Gavin Henson

Gavin Henson is set to make his first Aviva Premiership start for London Welsh against former outfit Saracens at the Kassam Stadium on Sunday.

It will be Henson's first game for the Exiles since he suffered a minor fracture to his cheekbone during a pre-season fixture against the Scarlets.

Henson, who replaces Gordon Ross at number 10, is one of six changes made by head coach Lyn Jones to the starting line-up which went down 31-25 to Gloucester at the Kassam on Sunday.

Hooker Dan George and centre James Lewis replace Neil Briggs and Sonny Parker, who both have injuries. A key member of Welsh's Championship winning team last season, Lewis will be making his Premiership debut on Sunday.

Canadian international Phil Mackenzie comes in on the ring wing, with Tom Arscott reverting to full-back and Seb Jewell named on the bench.

Mike Denbee returns to the side following the injury he sustained against Exeter Chiefs and replaces Michael Hills at openside flanker.

"I am really looking forward to making my first start for London Welsh in the Aviva Premiership on Sunday," said Henson.

"Having been given the opportunity by Lyn Jones and the club to play in the Premiership, it was both disappointing and frustrating to pick up an injury against Scarlets in pre-season.

"However, the boys have done really well in the first five games and now I just cannot wait to start playing my part with the rest of the team. I am also very excited about playing at the Kassam in front of the London Welsh supporters for the first time.

"Saracens are an extremely good side, we know that, but this is a great opportunity both for me and for London Welsh to test ourselves against one of the best teams in the Aviva Premiership."

Meanwhile, Saracens have recalled Charlie Hodgson, David Strettle and James Short.

With Alex Goode, Brad Barritt and Chris Ashton among those rested on rotation, Strettle will make his first start of the season and Owen Farrell will switch to inside centre with Hodgson named at fly-half.

In the forwards, John Smit starts at hooker with second-row George Kruis and flanker Andy Saull both getting their first runs of the season. On the bench, flanker Nick Fenton-Wells could make his Saracens debut while Kameli Ratuvou is also in line for his first appearance of the season.

Form: London Welsh's two game winning run narrowly came to an end at home to Gloucester on Sunday with their 25-31 defeat, the visitors gaining the decisive score with just six minutes left. Saracens handed defending Aviva Premiership champions, Harlequins, their first defeat of the new campaign at The Stoop on Sunday, but have now for the first time in their Premiership history gone three whole games without scoring a try. The two clubs have not met in a competitive match since a Division Two encounter at Bramley Road on 22 October 1988, which Saracens won 37-4.

The teams:

London Welsh: 15 Tom Arscott, 14 Phil MacKenzie, 13 James Lewis, 12 Hudson Tonga'uiha, 11 Nick Scott, 10 Gavin Henson, 9 Tyson Keats, 8 Ed Jackson, 7 Mike Denbee, 6 Daniel Browne, 5 Matt Corker, 4 Jonathan Mills (capt), 3 Paulica Ion, 2 Dan George, 1 Frank Montanella.
Replacements: 16 Greg Bateman, 17 Tom Bristow, 18 Arthur Joly, 19 Kirill Kulemin, Alfie To'oala, 21 Nick Runciman, 22 Ryan Davis, 23 Seb Jewell.

Saracens: 15 Chris Wyles, 14 David Strettle, 13 Joel Tomkins, 12 Owen Farrell, 11 James Short, 10 Charlie Hodgson, 9 Richard Wigglesworth, 8 Jackson Wray, 7 Andy Saull, 6 Will Fraser, 5 George Kruis, 4 Steve Borthwick (c), 3 Matt Stevens, 2 John Smit, 1 Rhys Gill.
Replacements: 16 Jamie George, 17 Mako Vunipola, 18 Carlos Nieto, 19 Mouritz Botha, 20 Nick Fenton-Wells, 21 Neil De Kock, 22 Kameli Ratuvou, 23 Duncan Taylor.

Date: Sunday, October 7
Kick-off: 14:15 BST
Venue: Kassam Stadium
Referee: Luke Pearce
Assistant referees: Paul Dix, Nigel Carrick
Television match official: Graham Hughes
Timekeeper: Brian Abrahams

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