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Saracens v London Irish preview: Unbeaten Sarries look to continue dominant start to the season

  • Saracens welcome London Irish to Allianz Park on Saturday: 1pm kick off
  • Skipper Alistair Hargreaves makes his first start of the season for Sarries
  • Scotland internationals Blair Cowan and Sean Maitland both start for London Irish
Saracens club captain Alistair Hargreaves makes his first start of the season when the reigning champions welcome London Irish to Allianz Park on Saturday.

Hargreaves will be leading a side that includes a front row that has a combined number 350 Saracens appearances to their name with experienced props Rhys Gill and Petrus Du Plessis packing down alongside Jamie George.

Duncan Taylor also returns to the starting XV to partner Nick Tompkins in the midfield, with Alex Goode, Mike Ellery and Chris Ashton continuing as the back three.

Meanwhile, the Exiles bring in Scotland internationals Blair Cowan and Sean Maitland into their starting XV.

Try-scoring winger Maitland will make his run-on debut in the back-three alongside Topsy Ojo and Aseli Tikoirotuma.

Fergus Mulchrone also replaces Eoin Griffin in the midfield as Tom Coventry makes three changes from the defeat last time out against Exeter.

The season has started very differently for the two sides with Saracens being one of only two sides to have begun with two victories while London Irish has opened their campaign with back-to-back defeats.

The Exiles, in fact, have not won an away fixture since beating London Welsh back in February, however, they are one of only three teams to have beaten Saracens at Allianz Park since they started playing there in 2012.

The next time these two teams meet, the match will be played in New York so everyone will be looking to impress between now and then so they will have a place on the plane for that exciting game next March.


RUCK PREDICTS

The Exiles have tasted success at Allianz Park as recently as 2014, but it’s massively unlikely that we’ll see a repeat of that result this weekend with the reigning champions having hit the ground running. Expect a bonus point win for the hosts. Saracens by 25.


PLAYERS TO WATCH
Saracens: Owen Farrell

during the Aviva Premiership match between Gloucester and Saracens at Kingsholm Stadium on October 23, 2015 in Gloucester, England.

The England fly-half kept his composure to score a match-winning penalty two minutes from time last weekend against Gloucester. The accurate goalkicker came of age last year, scoring a try and ten crucial points in the 28-16 Premiership Grand Final win over Bath. Can he find a new level in 2014/15? England expects.


London Irish: Sean Maitland

NEWCASTLE UPON TYNE, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 10: Sean Maitland of Scotland looks to break with the ball during the 2015 Rugby World Cup Pool B match between Samoa and Scotland at St James' Park on October 10, 2015 in Newcastle upon Tyne, United Kingdom. (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)

The Exiles were spectacularly unspectacular last season, scoring just 45 tries, so will be hoping Scotland and British Lions international winger Maitland can hit the ground running starting today after he joined this summer from Glasgow Warriors.


Saracens: 15 Alex Goode, 14 Chris Ashton, 13 Nick Tompkins, 12 Duncan Taylor, 11 Mike Ellery, 10 Owen Farrell, 9 Ben Spencer, 8 Ernst Joubert, 7 Will Fraser, 6 Jackson Wray, 5 Alistair Hargreaves (c), 4 Maro Itoje, 3 Petrus Du Plessis, 2 Jamie George, 1 Rhys Gill.
Replacements: 16 Schalk Brits, 17 Richard Barrington, 18 Titi Lamositele, 19 Jim Hamilton, 20 Jacques Burger, 21 Richard Wigglesworth, 22 Brad Barritt, 23 Chris Wyles.

London Irish: 15 Topsy Ojo, 14 Sean Maitland, 13 Tom Fowlie, 12 Fergus Mulchrone, 11 Aseli Tikoirotuma, 10 Chris Noakes, 9 Brendan McKibbin, 8 Rob McCusker, 7 Blair Cowan, 6 Jebb Sinclair, 5 Matt Symons, 4 George Skivington (c), 3 Halani Aulika, 2 David Paice, 1 Tom Smallbone.
Replacements: 16 Gerard Ellis, 17 Tom Court, 18 Leo Halavatau, 19 Eoin Sheriff, 20 David Sisi, 21 Scott Steele, 22 Shane Geraghty, 23 Alex Lewington.


Date: Saturday, October 31
Venue: Allianz Park
Kick-off: 13:00 GMT
Referee: Gregory Garner
Assistant referees: Simon McConnell, Paul Dix
Television match official: Trevor Fisher
Timekeeper: Robert Ockenden
Assessor: Gary Welsh