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Owen Farrell left out as Saracens name team to take on Northampton

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

One international who is available for Saracens this weekend is their new Argentine back-rower Juan Martin Gonzalez, who is set for his home debut after impressing away to Newcastle and Harlequins.

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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.”

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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.

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Red and White Dynamight 4 hours ago
Duhan van der Merwe hat-trick sinks sloppy England to win Calcutta Cup

Up the Jocks ! a great team effort and 4 victories v on the bounce v their greatest rivals for those north of Hadrians. But, of course, before the celebrations survive the first pint of McEwans, it seems for some this Calcutta Cup match was merely 1 man v 15. What exactly is it about Sth Africans that make them such insufferable bores ? you rarely see Kiwis claiming Ireland victories (incl 3 x NZers) or Aussies for that matter (X1). You never see Samoans claiming France/England victories (Tuilagis). Or Fijians claim All Black victories. Scotland have had some great Kiwi-born players (S.Lineen/B.Laney/J.Leslie) - no surprise given their heritage - but they supported them as their ‘2nd team’. If anything they applaud their countrymen for taking opportunities and bettering themselves as professionals and, hopefully, competing on the World stage too. It takes some stratospheric level of stupid to ignore the opaque boundaries and qualifications that now allow Japan to be competitive, Portugal to win a RWC game, Argentinians to play for Italy, New Zealanders to dominate Tongan and Samoan teams - and not celebrate that World Rugby is more competitive and better for it. Everywhere on social media, even when the post has zero to do with Sth Africans (schoolboy rugby being the most obvious barrel-scraping eg - these are KIDS), they pile in and try to claim the “we are better/stronger/faster” with such voluminous levels of obnoxious bile, that it poisons the mere celebration of the sport itself. These are not ‘rugby fans’ that can marvel at the Game they Play in Heaven, but rather some misplaced insecure-fuelled poison that they need to extract from deep inside their psyche. Its hard to understand the exact reason for the massive chip on their shoulders and their desperation for the victimhood/noone-loves-us-we-dont-care, but it seems accelerated with their LOTTO Cup 1-pt wins, like gasoline on the fire. Obsessed with ‘cheating’ refs and ‘cheating’ opposition (Rassies video bloopers during Lions tour; McCaw’s whole career) and celebrating their own thuggery (#JUSTICE4 the dirtiest player in pro-rugby history), when luck suddenly goes their way (1995 Final vs an acutely comprimised ABs; Kilosi<->Cane cards in 2023 Final) or their players escape adequate penalty (Etzebeth 1-handed non-intercepts; Kolbe illegal chargedown; Etzebeth cynically retreating in the AB backline) so obviously that its clearly been coached, then suddenly its AOK as long its SA that benefit directly from it. The schizophrenic nature of Sth Africans presents them as good company in person - and lets face it, theyre EVERYWHERE now and cant get out of their own country fast enough - but as anonymous keyboard ninjas their true nature shines out as one beset with a dark undercurrent of toxic self-absorption. It appears that the bravado appears only under the protection of anonymity, a cowardice of insufferable reverse-flagellation to make themselves feel proud when the mirror stares back at them. Give yourselves a long slow clap. Well done to the entire Scotland team including all those born south of Hadrians Wall. Playing a fantastic fast pace of fluid ball-in-hands rugby that seems almost foreign to other teams. Och aye the noo.

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