"Unavailable" - Owen Farrell left out by Saracens after withdrawing from England - Ruck

“Unavailable” – Owen Farrell left out by Saracens after withdrawing from England

Director of Rugby Mark McCall has made eight changes from the side that beat Bristol Bears last Saturday, as Sarries go in search of their sixth consecutive win in the league.

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Tom West, Theo Dan and Alec Clarey start in the front-row, with captain Maro Itoje joining Theo McFarland in an exciting second-row. Gonzalez returns at blindside flanker, and he has Player of the Month nominee Andy Christie and Billy Vunipola for company at the base of the scrum.

Ivan van Zyl is back at scrum-half, and Manu Vunipola starts in the number 10 shirt, replacing Owen Farrell who picked up a minor knock in the win over Bristol.

Nick Tompkins has Lucio Cinti alongside him in the midfield who is also making his home debut, and the back-three of Tom Parton, Sean Maitland and Alex Goode will as ever be looking to give the side a clinical edge in front of the home faithful.

On the bench there is a wealth of experience with the likes of Jamie George and Mako Vunipola ready to add their impact, and Alex Lewington will look to continue his form after scoring a brace against the Bears.

Gonzalez can’t wait to get back out there on Saturday.

“I got a very warm welcome when I arrived, everyone helped me to settle in. It has been great to play a couple of games and I was delighted to score my first try for the club against Newcastle Falcons.

The competition for places is crazy, and that’s not just from the internationals in the squad. Standards are high and I know I’ve got a fight on my hands every week to get the chance to play so to get the chance at home this week is incredible for me.”

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Saracens Men team to play Northampton Saints: 

1 Tom West

2 Theo Dan

3 Alec Clarey

4 Maro Itoje (c)

5 Theo McFarland

6 Juan Martin Gonzalez

7 Andy Christie

8 Billy Vunipola

9 Ivan van Zyl

10 Manu Vunipola

11 Tom Parton

12 Nick Tompkins

13 Lucio Cinti

14 Sean Maitland

15 Alex Goode


16 Jamie George

17 Mako Vunipola

18 Christian Judge

19 Hugh Tizard

20 Toby Knight

21 Aled Davies

22 Olly Hartley

23 Alex Lewington

Players Unavailable: 

Alex Lozowski, Ben Earl, Callum Hunter-Hill, Elliot Daly (Post RWC Rest), Josh Hallett, Marco Riccioni, Nick Isiekwe, Ollie Hoskins, Owen Farrell, Ralph Adams-Hale, Rotimi Segun, Tom Willis, Tom Woolstencroft.


Fullback: Israel Folau (Australia)

Owens said: “For me, it’s nip and tuck between Halfpenny and Folau, next to nothing to choose between them. Leigh is brilliant because under the high ball and with his kicking at goal under pressure. He may not always break the line when running but puts his body on the line in defence and is a top-notch match-winner.

“But I go for Folau – only just, I should stress – because of his ability to seemingly beat his man every time he gets the ball in his hand. He’s such an exciting player and like Leigh he is one of the best under the high ball.

“It’s a toss of a coin for me… and it’s come down in Folau’s favour.”

Winger: Stuart Hogg (Scotland)

Owens said: “How can you fail to be impressed when watching Hogg play. He’s so exciting as he burst into that line and, of course, was named Six Nations player of the tournament.

“I know he’s a full-back for Scotland, but he is so quick and direct he could easily play on the wing. He reminds me a bit of Shane Williams with some of the things he does.

“When you see who is on the other wing in my team, you’ll see how they would work brilliantly in tandem.”

Outside-centre: Brian O’Driscoll (Ireland)

Owens said: “Not only is he one of the greatest centres in the history of rugby union but he’s a fantastic man off the field as well. O’Driscoll has been a wonderful ambassador for the sport and a real leader. He always respected referees and set the right example for others to follow.

“A legend of the game who conducted himself superbly, on and off the pitch.”

Inside-centre: Ma’a Nonu (New Zealand)

Owens said: “He’s another brilliant player and after every game, win or lose, he would come up and give me a hug. Ma’a has always found time at after-match functions or at breakfast if we’ve been staying at the same hotel to come over and have a chat.

“What a player, mind, too. One of the stalwarts of the New Zealand side for so many years.”

Winger: Shane Williams (Wales)

Owens said: “When people ask me who is the best player I have refereed it’s pretty much an impossible task to pick one because I’ve been lucky enough to take charge of so many greats.

“But if I’m pushed, I would pick Shane for what he achieved after coming from football at 17 or 18 years of age.

“He was in the mould of Gerald Davies in how he left defenders gasping for air as he beat them with those dazzling sidesteps. Nobody would fancy defending against a back three of Shane, Hogg and Folau, I can tell you that.”