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Saracens back Olly Hartley against league leaders Sale after impressing in Europe

By Josh Raisey
Olly Hartley of Saracens breaks with the ball to score their fourth try during the Investec Champions Cup match between Saracens and Connacht Rugby at StoneX Stadium on December 16, 2023 in Barnet, England. (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

Saracens have handed 21-year-old centre Olly Hartley his first Gallagher Premiership start since round one after a two-try display against Connacht on Saturday in the Investec Champions Cup.

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After coming on from the bench in Saracens’ loss to the Bulls in Pretoria in round one, Hartley replaced Elliot Daly to partner Nick Tompkins in the midfield last weekend at the StoneX Stadium, scoring twice in the 55-36 victory. Director of rugby Mark McCall has gone for the same partnership for their trip to take on league leaders Sale Sharks tomorrow in a repeat of last season’s final.

“Last weekend was a massive step forward so we want to improve on that performance,” the former Wasps centre said.

“This game is a big test but we’re looking at it as another opportunity to get better.

“The experience really helps me. I can do my job and focus on that with so many good players around me who can give me great confidence.”

After lining up against Bundee Aki, arguably the form centre in the world, last week, Hartley will be taking on Manu Tuilagi at the AJ Bell Stadium, so the challenges are coming thick and fast. Then again, at 6′ 4″, Hartley can certainly make his presence felt in the middle of the field as well.

Sale Sharks XV:
15. Joe Carpenter , 14. Tom Roebuck, 13. Rob du Preez, 12. Manu Tuilagi, 11. Arron Reed, 10. George Ford, 9. Gus Warr 1. Ross Harrison, 2. Agustin Creevy, 3. Nick Schonert, 4. Cobus Wiese 5. Jonny Hill, 6. Ernst van Rhyn, 7. Ben Curry ©, 8. Jean-Luc du Preez
Replacements: 16. Luke Cowan-Dickie, 17. Tumy Onasanya, 18. Asher Opoku-Fordjour, 19. Josh Beaumont, 20. Sam Dugdale, 21. Nye Thomas, 22. Sam James, 23. Sam Bedlow

Saracens XV:
15 Alex Goode, 14 Lucio Cinti, 13 Nick Tompkins, 12 Olly Hartley, 11 Sean Maitland, 10 Owen Farrell (c), 9 Ivan van Zyl, 1 Mako Vunipola, 2 Jamie George, 3 Alec Clarey, 4 Maro Itoje, 5 Theo McFarland, 6 Juan Martin Gonzalez, 7 Andy Christie, 8 Billy Vunipola
Replacements: 16 Theo Dan, 17 Tom West, 18 Logovi’i Mulipola, 19 Hugh Tizard, 20 Toby Knight, 21 Gareth Simpson, 22 Manu Vunipola, 23 Tom Parton

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Jon 1 days ago
Why Sam Cane's path to retirement is perfect for him and the All Blacks

> It would be best described as an elegant solution to what was potentially going to be a significant problem for new All Blacks coach Scott Robertson. It is a problem the mad population of New Zealand will have to cope with more and more as All Blacks are able to continue their careers in NZ post RWCs. It will not be a problem for coaches, who are always going to start a campaign with the captain for the next WC in mind. > Cane, despite his warrior spirit, his undoubted commitment to every team he played for and unforgettable heroics against Ireland in last year’s World Cup quarter-final, was never unanimously admired or respected within New Zealand while he was in the role. Neither was McCaw, he was considered far too passive a captain and then out of form until his last world cup where everyone opinions changed, just like they would have if Cane had won the WC. > It was never easy to see where Cane, or even if, he would fit into Robertson’s squad given the new coach will want to be building a new-look team with 2027 in mind. > Cane will win his selections on merit and come the end of the year, he’ll sign off, he hopes, with 100 caps and maybe even, at last, universal public appreciation for what was a special career. No, he won’t. Those returning from Japan have already earned the right to retain their jersey, it’s in their contract. Cane would have been playing against England if he was ready, and found it very hard to keep his place. Perform, and they keep it however. Very easy to see where Cane could have fit, very hard to see how he could have accomplished it choosing this year as his sabbatical instead of 2025, and that’s how it played out (though I assume we now know what when NZR said they were allowing him to move his sabbatical forward and return to NZ next year, they had actually agreed to simply select him for the All Blacks from overseas, without any chance he was going to play in NZ again). With a mammoth season of 15 All Black games they might as well get some value out of his years contract, though even with him being of equal character to Richie, I don’t think they should guarantee him his 100 caps. That’s not what the All Blacks should be about. He absolutely has to play winning football.

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