Planet Rugby

Preview: Saracens v Newcastle

01st November 2013 09:49

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Charlie Hodgson Saracens

Fit again: Charlie Hodgson

Newcastle Falcons have made four changes for this Sunday's Aviva Premiership trip to table-toppers Saracens.

After making his 100th appearance for the Falcons as a second-half replacement in last weekend's 13-11 triumph over London Irish at Kingston Park, skipper Will Welch makes a welcome return to the starting XV.

Kieran Brookes replaces Oliver Tomaszczyk at tight-head, while former Saracens man Noah Cato and Scotland international Phil Godman get the nod on the wing and at fly-half respectively.

The Falcons sit in eighth place, two points behind Harlequins, who occupy sixth position, and boss Dean Richards admits his side have nothing to lose in the capital this weekend.

"It's going to be an interesting game against a quality side, but we're going down there with absolutely nothing to lose," said Richards.

"They're a talented side with a lot of strength in depth, and despite them losing a series of players for the autumn internationals, they have top class players coming into the team."

Sunday's clash marks the return of former Sarries players Cato and Adam Powell to Allianz Park with the latter relishing the contest.

"Saracens is a brilliant challenge for us, especially after the win against London Irish, and it will be a good opportunity to see where we are at as a team, and we'll be looking to go out there and play some good rugby," said Powell.

"There's been a real buzz in training this week, and after you get a win under your belt, there's always an extra zip in the sessions and everyone has a bit more energy.

"I'm really looking forward to the game."

Meanwhile, Charlie Hodgson makes his first start of the season - the 32 year-old has recovered from an Achilles injury to partner former Springbok scrum-half Neil de Kock, in what is an experienced halfback pairing for Saracens.

Argentine international Marcelo Bosch is named at outside centre, to make his full debut for the club - Bosch partners the versatile Chris Wyles in the Sarries midfield, with David Strettle, Michael Tagicakibau and Alex Goode in the back three.

Jackson Wray and Will Fraser replace Kelly Brown and Jacques Burger in the back row, whilst Ernst Joubert keeps his place at number eight.

Mouritz Botha partners captain Steve Borthwick at lock, and Jamie George comes in for the Schalk Brits at hooker.

Richard Barrington continues at loosehead prop, with British and Irish Lion Matt Stevens on the opposite side of the scrum at tighthead.

Chris Ashton, Owen Farrell, Joel Tomkins, Billy Vunipola and Mako Vunipola are all away on international duty with England.

"Newcastle are very competitive with some familiar faces within their side. They will be well organised and have players capable of quickly changing games, so we will have to be fully focused on our own performance levels to get the result we want," said Saracens boss Mark McCall.

Form: Saracens slipped to a second successive defeat at Northampton on Saturday to follow on from their narrow reversal against Toulouse at Wembley in the European Cup. The Sarries only defeat in their ten previous matches at Allianz Park in all competitions came to Northampton in last year's Aviva Premiership Rugby semi-final. Newcastle Falcons have won three of their last four matches in all competitions and the newly promoted team have risen to 8th place in the Premiership table. Newcastle have won four of their last five away games in the Premiership. Saracens have won their last seven fixtures against Newcastle in all competitions since the Falcons 13-9 victory at Kingston Park in the Premiership in February 2009. Newcastle have not been triumphant on Saracens soil since 2007.

The teams:

Saracens: 15 Alex Goode, 14 Michael Tagicakibau, 13 Marcelo Bosch, 12 Chris Wyles, 11 David Strettle, 10 Charlie Hodgson, 9 Neil de Kock, 8 Ernst Joubert, 7 Will Fraser, 6 Jackson Wray, 5 Mourtiz Botha, 4 Steve Borthwick (c), 3 Matt Stevens, 2 Jamie George, 1 Richard Barrington.
Replacements:16 Schalk Brits, 17 Nick Auterac, 18 Petrus Du Plessis, 19 George Kruis, 20 Jacques Burger, 21 Richard Wigglesworth, 22 Duncan Taylor, 23 Ben Ransom

Newcastle Falcons: 15 Alex Tait, 14 Noah Cato, 13 Danny Barnes, 12 Adam Powell, 11 Ryan Shortland, 10 Phil Godman, 9 Mike Blair, 8 Ally Hogg (c), 7 Will Welch, 6 Mark Wilson, 5 Dom Barrow, 4 Carlo del Fava, 3 Kieran Brookes, 2 Scott Lawson, 1 Rob Vickers.
Replacements: 16 George McGuigan, 17 Grant Shiells, 18 Scott Wilson, 19 Fraser McKenzie, 20 Richard Mayhew, 21 Warren Fury, 22 Rory Clegg, 23 James Fitzpatrick

Date: Sunday, November 3
Venue: Allianz Park
Kick-off: 15:00
Referee: Matthew Carley
Assistant referees: Luke Pearce and Andrew Pearce
TMO: Roy Maybank

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