Planet Rugby

Preview: Saracens v Exeter

15th February 2013 11:41

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allianz park

Debut: Allianz Park

Saracens will play their first Aviva Premiership match at Allianz Park on Saturday in front of a sold out crowd when Exeter Chiefs are the visitors.

It will also be the first time a Premiership match has been played on an artificial turf pitch and Saracens director of rugby Mark McCall admitted the squad is excited ahead of the showdown.

"It's a day that will not only be enjoyed by the players, but also supporters and everyone connected with the project who have put all their energy and effort into delivering a fantastic venue that will also be enjoyed and used by the whole community," he said.

"But while the sense of occasion will not be lost on us, our priority is to deliver a performance on the pitch against a very good Exeter Chiefs side."

In team news ahead of the game, Adam Powell, James Short, Mako Vunipola, Mouritz Botha and Will Fraser come back into the starting line-up.

Alex Goode, Owen Farrell, Chris Ashton, Brad Barritt and Kelly Brown do not feature due to international duty while Rhys Gill, Schalk Brits, Duncan Taylor and Jacques Burger are ruled out due to injury.

Meanwhile, Exeter's team news sees head coach Rob Baxter make four changes to the starting line-up that faced Sale Sharks.

In the pack, off-season signings Damian Welch and Kai Horstmann both make their first-ever Premiership starts for the Devon club.

Welch takes over from skipper Tom Hayes in the second-row, whilst Horstmann's inclusion at number eight sees Richard Baxter switch across the back-row to replace Ben White.

Behind, Ian Whitten comes into the midfield in place of Sireli Naqelevuki and Matt Jess comes in on the wing for Fijian Watisoni Votu.

Form: Allianz Park becomes the 33rd ground to host Premiership Rugby and the first with an artificial pitch - the 6th different home venue for a Saracens game in the history of the tournament. Saracens' eight game winning run in all competitions ended with their 16-29 defeat at London Irish on Saturday. Sarries have not lost a home game in Aviva Premiership Rugby since Harlequins visited Wembley Stadium on 31 March. Exeter Chiefs' only win in their last eight encounters in all competitions was 28-19 at home to Northampton Saints in the Anglo-Welsh Cup on 2 February. The Chiefs have won just one away game in the Premiership since April: 27-23 at London Irish on 25 November. In round four of Aviva Premiership Rugby at Sandy Park Exeter beat Saracens for the first time since 2010.

The teams:

Saracens: 15 Chris Wyles, 14 James Short, 13 Joel Tomkins, 12 Adam Powell, 11 David Strettle, 10 Charlie Hodgson, 9 Neil de Kock, 8 Ernst Joubert, 7 Will Fraser, 6 Jackson Wray, 5 Mouritz Botha, 4 Steve Borthwick (capt), 3 Matt Stevens, 2 John Smit, 1 Mako Vunipola.
Replacements: 16 Jamie George, 17 Nick Auterac, 18 Petrus du Plessis, 19 Alistair Hagreaves, 20 Justin Melck, 21 Richard Wigglesworth, 22 Nils Mordt, 23 Joe Maddock.

Exeter: 15 Luke Arscott, 14 Jack Nowell, 13 Ian Whitten, 12 Jason Shoemark, 11 Matt Jess, 10 Gareth Steenson, 9 Will Chudley, 8 Kai Horstmann, 7 James Scaysbrook, 6 Richard Baxter (capt), 5 Damian Welch, 4 Dean Mumm, 3 Hoani Tui, 2 Neil Clark, 1 Ben Moon.
Replacements: 16 Jack Yeandle, 17 Carl Rimmer, 18 Alex Brown, 19 Tom Hayes, 20 Aly Muldowney, 21 Haydn Thomas, 22 Ignacio Mieres, 23 Phil Dollman.

Date: Saturday, February 16
Kick-off: 15:00
Venue: Allianz Park
Referee: Martin Fox
Assistant referees: Robin Goodliffe, Stuart Terheege
Television match official: Geoff Warren
Timekeeper: Clive Leeke
Assessor: Ed Morrison

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