Saracens v Toulouse preview: New era begins for French side against Sarries
Saracens face Toulouse in their European Champions Cup opener on Saturday: 17:30 kick-off
Centre Brad Barritt will captain the reigning Premiership champions
First European game ever for Toulouse without Guy Noves in charge
Toulouse begins a new era against Saracens this weekend as they take part in their first ever European Champions Cup fixture without Guy Noves at the helm.
The former head coach left the club after 22 years and four European titles to take over as boss of the French national team, with former fullback Ugo Mola assuming control.
It will add some extra intrigue to the clash at Allianz Park on Saturday, but reports have suggested the transition has been an easy one.
The Frenchman will now be looking to replicate their success of two years ago when they won both meetings with Saracens after being drawn in the same pool. The French side have also won four of their last six against English opponents in the Champions Cup.
This included a historical tie at Wembley against Sarries, which saw the Midi-Pyrénées outfit come out on top with a narrow 17-16 win in front of over 60,000 people.
But Mark McCall, Saracens head coach, and co. will be in confident mood after a stellar start to the season that has seen them unbeaten so far and sitting clear at the top of the table.
Brad Barritt will captain the reigning Premiership champions in their Pool 1 fixture and will be joined by Duncan Taylor in the Saracens midfield.
Meanwhile Toulouse, with all their European pedigree, have won six of their opening eight Top 14 games this season, which includes impressively beating Montpellier away from home, meaning they will offer a robust test in London.
The French side has played 144 Champions Cup games yet have never lost more than three consecutive matches, should they lose to Saracens it will equal that three-game losing streak for just the second time in their history.
This looks set to be the best game of the weekend as two of Europe’s form sides lock horns. Saracens and Toulouse both have title ambitions, and this game will be a big early test. An unmissable game in which home advantage should give Sarries the edge. Saracens by 7
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Saracens: Owen Farrell
The number 10 has been in superb form since the end of the World Cup, kicking his side to the top of the early Premiership table. His game management will be key today if Sarries are to get the start they crave in Europe this year.
Toulouse: Toby Flood
A familiar face for English fans, the fly half, operating at centre today, is relishing his new challenge in France after a fall out with Leicester Tigers and is finding his feet this year. His experience of the English game could be crucial.
Saracens: 15 Alex Goode, 14 Chris Ashton, 13 Duncan Taylor, 12 Brad Barritt (c), 11 Chris Wyles, 10 Owen Farrell, 9 Richard Wigglesworth, 8 Billy Vunipola, 7 Will Fraser, 6 Michael Rhodes, 5 Maro Itoje, 4 George Kruis, 3 Petrus du Plessis, 2 Jamie George, 1 Mako Vunipola.
Replacements: 16 Schalk Brits, 17 Rhys Gill, 18 Juan Figallo, 19 Alistair Hargreaves, 20 Jackson Wray, 21 Neil de Kock, 22 Charlie Hodgson, 23 Marcelo Bosch.
Toulouse: 15 Maxime Médard, 14 Vincent Clerc, 13 Gael Fickou, 12 Toby Flood, 11 Timoci Matanavou, 10 Luke McAlister, 9 Sébastien Bézy, 8 Louis Picamoles, 7 Thierry Dusautoir (c), 6 Yacouba Camara, 5 Joe Tekori, 4 Yoann Maestri, 3 Census Johnston, 2 Julien Marchand, 1 Gurthro Steenkamp.
Replacements: 16 Christopher Tolofua, 17 Vasil Kakovin, 18 Dorian Aldegheri, 19 Romain Millo-Chluski, 20 Imanol Harinordoquy, 21 Talalelei Gray, 22 Jean-Marc Doussain, 23 Yann David.
Date: Saturday, November 14
Venue: Allianz Park
Kick-off: 17:30 GMT
Referee: George Clancy (Ireland)
Assistant Referees: Mark Patton (Ireland), Kieran Barry (Ireland)
TMO: Marshall Kilgore (Ireland)