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Preview: Saracens v London Wasps

02nd November 2012 08:31

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Schalk Brits in action for Saracens against Wasps

Starting for Sarries: Schalk Brits

Charlie Hodgson returns at fly-half in the Saracens side to face London Wasps in Sunday's Aviva Premiership clash at Vicarge Road.

It will be Saracens first match of the season in Watford having previously enjoyed home matches at Twickenham, Wembley Stadium and in Brussels.

In team news ahead of the game, Hodgson is back at 10 while Chris Wyles, James Short and Kameli Ratuvou come into the backline.

In the forwards, Matt Stevens switches to loosehead prop while Carlos Nieto starts at tighthead.

Schalk Brits, who joins up with the South African touring squad after the match, is named at hooker.

Ernst Joubert and Andy Saull make up the back row along with new Scotland captain Kelly Brown.

Owen Farrell, Brad Barritt, Chris Ashton, Mouritz Botha, Alex Goode and Mako Vunipola are unavailable due to England call-ups. Rhys Gill misses the game through injury.

Meanwhile, London Wasps have made five changes to the starting line-up which defeated London Welsh with a bonus point last weekend, in what was a fourth consecutive win for Wasps.

There is a new centre pairing in Chris Bell and Elliot Daly, with Lee Thomas unfortunately missing out with a dead leg, while Andrea Masi, who has been in Italy, national team training for much of this week, is named in the replacements.

Charlie Davies comes in at scrum-half for the injured Joe Simpson in the other change in the backs, while up front T Rhys Thomas starts at hooker and James Haskell returns, having missed last week with illness, to start in the number seven shirt.

On the bench, Jonah Holmes could make his senior debut for Wasps this season, as the Academy youngster is named as the replacement scrum-half.

Holmes started the season on loan at London Welsh where he was the starting number 9 in their opening Aviva Premiership game against Leicester. He was recalled by Wasps following the retirement of Nic Berry and in being named in the squad for Sunday, he becomes the 55th Premiership player to have played for two different teams in the same season, including Aston Croall, Adam Balding and Peter Stringer last year.

Previous Wasps players to have done so include Andy Gomarsall, Phil Greening, Jeremy Staunton and Paul Sackey, who have all played for Wasps and another Premiership club in the same season.

"While it's good to be heading to play Saracens with some momentum behind us, we're not under any illusions as to how much improvement we will have to make this weekend," said Wasps boss Dai Young.

"They will be missing a few players but to be honest, they have such a good squad that we know the guys coming in will be doing everything they can to stake a claim to the shirt. They are a side who know how to win and we need to step up massively to take anything out of the game."

Form: Saracens have lost only one game in any competition this season: 12-14 at Exeter in Aviva Premiership Rugby on 23 September. This is Sarries first game at Vicarage Road since May, a venue where Saracens have been defeated just once in the Premiership since October 2010: 19-20 to Leicester on 19 February. London Wasps have won four successive matches in all competitions, their best run since December 2010. Wasps have lost their last ten away games in the Premiership since they beat Worcester 14-12 at Sixways on 28 October 2011 - this represents their worst away run in Premiership history. Each club won its respective "home" game when they met last season. Wasps' only win at Vicarage Road since 2003 was 40-29 on 20 April 2008.

Rugby Union betting odds

The teams:

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

London Wasps: 15 Hugo Southwell (c), 14 Tom Varndell, 13 Elliot Daly, 12 Chris Bell, 11 Christian Wade, 10 Nick Robinson, 9 Charlie Davies, 8 Billy Vunipola, 7 James Haskell, 6 Ashley Johnson, 5 Marco Wentzel, 4 Joe Launchbury, 3 Zak Taulafo, 2 T Rhys Thomas, 1 Tim Payne.
Replacements: 16 Tom Lindsay, 17 Phil Swainston, 18 Simon McIntyre, 19 James Cannon, 20 Jonathan Poff, 21 Jonah Holmes, 22 Tommy Bell, 23 Andrea Masi.

Date: Sunday, November 4
Venue: Vicarage Road
Kick-off: 14.00 GMT
Referee: JP Doyle

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