Owen Farrell left out as Saracens name team to take on Northampton
Owen Farrell has been given this weekend off by Saracens just days after the England skipper revealed he was taking a sabbatical from international rugby and would be unavailable for the upcoming Guinness Six Nations.
Farrell’s absence from this Saturday’s Gallagher Premiership game at home to Northampton, however, has nothing to do with his recent Test rugby announcement that he wants to prioritise his and his family’s mental well-being.
Instead, it has to do with a knee injury that he picked up in last weekend’s StoneX Arena win over Bristol. Saracens are set to travel to South Africa for next weekend’s Investec Champions Cup opener at the Bulls and Farrell is being held back against the Saints to be ready for that trip.
Farrell’s omission is one of eight changes to the Saracens XV, with director of rugby Mark McCall also revealing that Italy’s Marco Riccioni and Fiji’s Eroni Mawi are set for lengthy stints on the sidelines.
“Marco Riccioni is going to be out for some time with a neck injury. Eroni Mawi picked up a calf injury at the weekend, which looks like it will be a lengthy injury as well. Tom Willis won’t be available this weekend with a knee injury. Actually, Owen himself got a bang on the knee last weekend,” he explained at a media briefing.
Saracens’ match against the Saints will be scouted by England assistant Richard Wigglesworth, who is also attending Friday’s Harlequins versus Sale game with head coach Steve Borthwick and Richard Hill. Scrum coach Tom Harrison has been pencilled in to watch Bath versus Exeter.
A statement read: “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. Tom West, Theo Dan and Alec Clarey start in the front row, with captain Maro Itoje joining Theo McFarland in an exciting second row.
“Juan Martin 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.”
Saracens (vs Northampton, Saturday): 15. Alex Goode; 14. Sean Maitland, 13. Lucio Cinti, 12. Nick Tompkins, 11. Tom Parton; 10. Manu Vunipola, 9. Ivan van Zyl; 1. Tom West, 2. Theo Dan, 3. Alec Clarey, 4. Maro Itoje (capt), 5. Theo McFarland, 6. Juan Martin Gonzalez, 7. Andy Christie, 8. Billy Vunipola. Reps: 16. Jamie George, 17. Mako Vunipola, 18. Christian Judge, 19. Hugh Tizard, 20. Toby Knight, 21. Aled Davies, 22. Olly Hartley, 23. Alex Lewington.