Saracens v Sale Sharks: Reigning champions aim for winning start
Saracens meets Sale in season opener at Allianz Park: 2pm kick off
Reigning champions have never lost back-to-back games on home turf
Sharks have won only once away from home in 2015
Champions Saracens will look to get their Aviva Premiership campaign off to the perfect start when they welcome Sale Sharks to Allianz Park this afternoon.
The hosts will hand debuts to flankers Michael Rhodes and Kelly Brown plus number 8 Jackson Wray to form an all new back-row trio.
Sarries are also able to welcome back England quartet Jamie George, Alex Goode, George Kruis and Mako Vunipola while USA tighthead Titi Lamositele is also available to come into their 23-man squad to face the Sharks.
The hosts were defeated 24-20 by Exeter in their most recent match on home turf but will take confidence from the fact they have never lost successive games at Allianz Park.
Meanwhile, the visitors have won just once on the opening weekend of the season since 2010 while their only win on the road in the Premiership so far in 2015 came against relegated London Welsh in February.
Sale hand debuts to South African prop Brian Mujati and Kiwi lock Bryn Evans, with other summer additions Neil Briggs and Peter Stringer likely to make their bows from the bench.
The Sharks have chosen to leave out Samoa pair Jonny Leota and TJ Ioane as well as Canada winger Phil Mackenzie to give them extra time to recover following their recent involvement in the World Cup.
Players to Watch
Saracens: Maro Itoje
Second-row Itoje will captain the side as Alistair Hargreaves misses the game with an Achilles injury. The 20-year-old lock, who made 15 appearances last term, already has Premiership and Junior World Cup winner’s medals in his collection. His potential at the moment is unlimited and in four years he could very much be one of the best players in world rugby. You have to presume if he plays well then Saracens will have a much better chance of winning this match.
Sale: Danny Cipriani
Sale have struggled away from the North West in 2015, meaning a trip to reigning champions Saracens would not be how they would have ideally liked to have started the new season. The visitors can take hope from the fact Sarries still have some key players away on international duty but in truth the champions still have a starting XV that makes hem favourites ahead of the clash. If Sale can stay in the game, the boot of Cipriani may be able to steal them a win but at this stage it looks unlikely they will do so.
Saracens by 10
Saracens: 15 Alex Goode, 14 Chris Ashton, 13 Tim Streather, 12 Duncan Taylor, 11 Mike Ellery, 10 Charlie Hodgson, 9 Neil de Kock, 8 Jackson Wray, 7 Kelly Brown, 6 Michael Rhodes, 5 Jim Hamilton 4 Maro Itoje (c), 3 Petrus Du Plessis, 2 Jamie George, 1 Rhys Gill.
Replacements: 16 Dave Porecki, 17 Mako Vunipola, 18 Titi Lamositele, 19 George Kruis, 20 Will Fraser, 21 Ben Spencer, 22 Nick Tompkins, 23 Ben Ransom.
Sale: 15 Mike Haley, 14 Tom Arscott, 13 Sam James, 12 Sam Tuitupou, 11 Will Addison, 10 Danny Cipriani, 9 Chris Cusiter, 8 Mark Easter 7 David Seymour, 6 Dan Braid (captain), 5 Bryn Evans, 4 Josh Beaumont, 3 Brian Mujati, 2 Tommy Taylor, 1 Ross Harrison.
Replacements: 16 Neil Briggs, 17 James Flynn, 18 Vadim Cobilas, 19 Jonathan Mills, 20 Magnus Lund, 21 Peter Stringer, 22 Nick Macleod, 23 Mark Jennings
Date: Saturday, October 17
Venue: Allianz Park
Kick-off: 14:00 local (13:00 GMT)
Referee: Dean Richards
Assistant Referees: Andy Watson, Nigel Carrick
TMO: David Sainsbury