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Owen Farrell is back as Saracens show their spurs for Bristol

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by Nathan Stirk/Getty Images)

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England skipper Owen Farrell is set to play for a star-studded Saracens XV on Saturday for the first time since October 24, the out-half finally overcoming a pair of ankle injuries that required surgery in recent months and confined him to the sidelines. The London club has held nothing back for the high-profile Gallagher Premiership encounter at Tottenham in front of an expected attendance of more than 40,000. 

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Aside from the return of the fit-against Farrell for his first club outing in five months, Jamie George, Nick Isiekwe, Maro Itoje, Elliot Daly and Max Malins – who all played for England in the recent Six Nations – are all named as starters. So too is Wales midfielder Nick Tompkins in a fixture where Bristol will start England scrum-half Harry Randall and they also have sub Wales out-half Callum Sheedy in reserve on a bench featuring Semi Radradra and Charles Piutau.

It’s the comeback of absent England skipper Farrell, though, that will catch the eye most. Having originally limped out of the Autumn Nations Series win over Australia with an issue that needed an operation, he then needed a separate operation on his other ankle when he got injured on his London club’s training just over a fortnight before he was due to lead his country in the Six Nations.  

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Belonging – Back in the Game
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Belonging – Back in the Game

Farrell missed the entire tournament but the 30-year-old will now take his first on-pitch steps towards making this July’s tour of Australia after he was named by Saracens in their team to take on Bristol in the Gallagher Premiership match on Saturday that is set to attract a crowd in excess of 40,000 to the Tottenham Hotspur football stadium.   

Saracens boss Mark McCall had given an optimistic update on Farrell on Wednesday, saying: “Owen has been training over the last couple of weeks and fingers crossed he will be available on Saturday. He has been in team training sessions for about two weeks we have had a training session just finished there now [Wednesday afternoon] and we will assess him tomorrow and Friday and make sure everything is okay and fingers crossed he will be able to take part in the game.

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“As a captain, he is rare and unique and as a player, he is a force of nature. The bigger the game the better he is. He is a Test match animal. Nothing brings the best out of him more than a huge game of rugby and certainly, we have missed him over this period. The unfortunate thing with this period he has been out, it wasn’t one injury, it was two injuries. He was almost back in January and he was out doing a training session – like he did today – and got injured in that training session, so that was a double blow and hard to deal with it.

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“But over the last six weeks, he has made an enormous contribution. It is not like he has been sulking in any way. He has been throwing himself into everything, helping our younger players, helping the team prepare off the field as best as possible so I have been really impressed with the enthusiasm he has shown for that but he likes to play and we are excited to have him back and he is excited to be back.”

SARACENS: 15. Alex Goode; 14. Max Malins, 13. Alex Lozowski, 12. Nick Tompkins, 11. Elliot Daly; 10. Owen Farrell (capt), 9. Aled Davies; 1. Richard Barrington, 2. Jamie George, 3. Vincent Koch, 4. Maro Itoje, 5. Nick Isiekwe, 6. Jackson Wray, 7. Ben Earl, 8. Billy Vunipola. Reps: 16. Tom Woolstencroft, 17. Eroni Mawi, 18. Sam Wainwright, 19. Tim Swinson,20. Andy Christie, 21. Ruben de Haas, 22. Duncan Taylor, 23. Sean Maitland.

BRISTOL: 15. Rich Lane; 14. Alapati Leiua, 13. Piers O’Conor, 12. Antoine Frisch, 11. Jack Bates; 10. Tiff Eden, 9. Harry Randall; 1. Jake Woolmore, 2. Harry Thacker, 3. Jake Armstrong, 4. Dave Attwood, 5. Joe Joyce (capt), 6. Chris Vui, 7. Dan Thomas, 8. Fitz Harding. Reps: 16. Jake Kerr, 17. Yann Thomas, 18. John Afoa, 19. Sam Jeffries, 20. Max Green, 21. Callum Sheedy, 22. Semi Radradra, 23. Charles Piutau.

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