Planet Rugby

Preview: Worcester v Saracens

27th December 2013 09:47

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Mako Vunipola of Saracens charges upfield past Chris Robshaw

Returns: Mako Vunipola

Andy Symons will get his first Aviva Premiership start for Worcester when Saracens visit Sixways in Round 11 of the competition on Saturday.

The centre made his Warriors debut in last month's LV= Cup victory over Cardiff Blues and scored his first try for the club against Leicester Tigers a week later.

Symons is one of two changes from the side which travelled to Kingsholm last Sunday as Leonardo Senatore comes in for the injured Jonathan Thomas at number eight.

Centurion Chris Pennell, who signed a new contract earlier this month, will captain the side against the league leaders.

Semisi Taulava is recalled to the bench and could make his first appearance since October's clash with Newcastle.

Warriors players will be wearing their charity shirt for their fourth annual charity match as they continue to raise money for Acorns Children's Hospice.

Director of Rugby Dean Ryan said: "We're not fazed by the whole thing. We recognise that Saracens are a good side and we recognise they've got some good players.

"But we also recognise that we've become a pretty strong group. Each time we've got something to teach ourselves and we are competitive every week.

"You learn a lot about people when you find yourself in these situations and I think we've conducted ourselves with a huge amount of credit.

"I'm optimistic every time this group represent themselves in the right way. They've done it against Northampton, they've done it against Bath and they've done it twice against Biarritz. That makes me optimistic ahead of the New Year."

Meanwhile, Alistair Hargreaves captains Saracens from lock forward, and is partnered by George Kruis in the second-row.

Elsewhere in the pack, Mako Vunipola returns to the starting XV and is joined by Schalk Brits and Matt Stevens in the front-row.

In the back row, Billy Vunipola returns to number eight, with Jackson Wray starting at blindside flanker - Kelly Brown completes the back-row trio and will wear the number seven jersey.

In the backs, in form scrum-half Richard Wigglesworth continues at nine and is partnered by Charlie Hodgson in the halves.

Chris Wyles starts at inside centre and is partnered by Tim Streather, who faces his hometown club.

In the back-three David Strettle returns to the side after shaking off a knock that ruled him out of last weekend's game against Leicester, and starts on the left wing.

Try scorer against the Leicester Tigers Jack Wilson swaps wings and replaces Chris Ashton on the right flank, whilst England international full-back Alex Goode starts at fifteen.

On the bench, Saracens welcome back England internationals Mouritz Botha and Brad Barritt from their respective injuries, whilst back-rower Justin Melck and scrum-half Ben Spencer make the 23-man squad.

Form: Worcester Warriors have lost their last 15 Aviva Premiership Rugby matches since beating Wasps 29-23 at Sixways on 1st March, only two clubs have had poorer runs in the competition: Bedford 17 losses 1999-2000 and Rotherham 30 losses 2001-2004. Saracens inflicted The Tigers' first 5-0 loss in league points since 2006 during their 49-10 victory at Allianz Park on Saturday. The top of the table outfit have lost just once in the competition this season 20-41 at Northampton in round 6. The last five fixtures between the two teams in the Premiership have all been won by the home side on the day, whilst Saracens have not been victorious at Sixways in the competition since 2007.

The teams:

Worcester: 15 Chris Pennell (c), 14 James Stephenson, 13 Alex Grove, 12 Andy Symons, 11 Josh Drauniniu, 10 Ignacio Mieres, 9 Jeremy Su'a, 8 Leonardo Senatore, 7 Sam Betty, 6 Richard de Carpentier, 5 Mariano Galarza, 4 James Percival, 3 Rob O'Donnell, 2 Chris Brooker, 1 Ofa Fainga'anuku.
Replacements: 16 Ed Shervington, 17 Jeremy Becasseau, 18 John Andress, 19 Chris Jones, 20 Semisi Taulava, 21 Paul Hodgson, 22 Paul Warwick, 23 Ravai Fatiaki.

Saracens: 15 Alex Goode, 14 Jack Wilson, 13 Tim Streather, 12 Chris Wyles, 11 David Strettle, 10 Charlie Hodgson, 9 Richard Wigglesworth, 8 Billy Vunipola, 7 Kelly Brown, 6 Jackson Wray, 5 Alistair Hargreaves (c), 4 George Kruis, 3 Matt Stevens, 2 Schalk Brits, 1 Mako Vunipola.
Replacements: 16 Jamie George, 17 Richard Barrington, 18 Petrus Du Plessis, 19 Mouritz Botha, 20 Justin Melck, 21 Ben Spencer, 22 Marcelo Bosch, 23 Brad Barritt.

Date: Saturday, December 28
Kick-off: 15:00 GMT
Venue: Sixways
Referee: Greg Garner
Assistant referees: Roger Baileff, Andrew Pearce
Timekeeper: Laurie Bryant
Television match official: Geoff Warren

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