Preview: Saracens v Newcastle

Date published: April 29 2016

Defending Premiership champions Saracens continue their title chase when they host eleventh positioned Newcastle Falcons at Allianz Park on Sunday.

Jacques Burger will play in his final game, the Namibian legend announced his retirement from rugby earlier during the week. 

Burger is named alongside Michael Rhodes and Jackson Wray in the Sarries back row, whilst elsewhere in the pack, Richard Barrington is named at loosehead prop joining Jared Saunders (hooker) and Titi Lamositele (tighthead prop) in the front row. 

Maro Itoje is joined by Jim Hamilton at lock.

In the halves, Charlie Hodgson starts at fly-half alongside Neil De Kock (scrum-half). At centre, Brad Barritt skippers the side in the number twelve jersey alongside Argentine international Marcelo Bosch.

In the back three, Alex Goode is rested at full-back and is replaced by Ben Ransom. Chris Ashton and Chris Wyles both start on the wings.

Meanwhile, Will Welch captains a Newcastle Falcons side showing five changes from the one which defeated London Irish in their last outing – a result which leaves the Falcons seven points clear of the Exiles at the foot of the table going into the penultimate round of the season.

Chris Harris and Adam Powell pair up in the midfield in a new-look centre combination as they replace Gonzalo Tiesi and Juan Pablo Socino. Craig Willis comes in for Mike Delany at fly-half. 

Wench moves over from the blindside to openside flanker and Mark Wilson slots in the number six jersey with Nilu Latu coming in at number eight. 

In the second row, Mouritz Botha and Calum Green trade places as the former pairs up with Sean Robinson in the lock duo.

Form: Saracens have already qualified for a seventh straight semi-final spot and have won their last five matches in all tournaments since their defeat at Leicester in round 17 of Aviva Premiership Rugby. A Newcastle Falcons victory would ensure their safety from the threat of relegation. The Falcons have not won away from home in Aviva Premiership Rugby since a trip to London Welsh in October 2014, although they did draw 15-all at Sale in November. Saracens have won their last 13 fixtures against the Falcons in all tournaments since Newcastle’s 13-9 victory at Kingston Park in February 2009. The Falcons only victory on Saracens soil since 2001 came on a trip to Vicarage Road on 30th December 2007.

The teams:

Saracens: 15 Ben Ransom, 14 Chris Ashton, 13 Marcelo Bosch, 12 Brad Barritt (c), 11 Chris Wyles, 10 Charlie Hodgson, 9 Neil De Kock, 8 Jackson Wray, 7 Jacques Burger, 6 Michael Rhodes, 5 Jim Hamilton, 4 Maro Itoje, 3 Titi Lamositele, 2 Jared Saunders, 1 Richard Barrington
Replacements: 16 Schalk Brits, 17 Mako Vunipola, 18 Juan Figallo, 19 Hayden Smith, 20 Kelly Brown, 21 Richard Wigglesworth, 22 Nils Mordt, 23 Nick Tompkins

Newcastle: 15 Simon Hammersley, 14 Alex Tait, 13 Chris Harris, 12 Adam Powell, 11 Marcus Watson, 10 Craig Willis, 9 Michael Young, 8 Mark Wilson, 7 Dan Temm, 6 Will Welch (c), 5 Sean Robinson, 4 Mouritz Botha, 3 Taione Vea, 2 George McGuigan, 1 Rob Vickers
Replacements: 16 Rob Hawkins, 17 Alex Rogers, 18 Andrew Foster, 19 Calum Green, 20 Richard Mayhew, 21 Ruki Tipuna, 22 Tom Catterick, 23 Tom Penny

Date: Sunday, May 1
Venue: Allianz Park
Kick-off: 15:15 BST (14:15 GMT)
Referee: Ian Tempest
Assistant Referees: Phil Watters, Roy Maybank
TMO: David Grashoff