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Saracens change five for sold-out fixture at Coventry, including a front row switch for suspended Springboks prop Koch

By Liam Heagney

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Saracens have made five changes for their second match in five days – including the inclusion at tighthead of Alec Clarey for the suspended Springboks prop Vincent Koch – as they look to net the win at Coventry on Saturday that will guarantee their place in next month’s promotion playoff final against Ealing. 


Mark McCall’s side trail the table-topping Trailfinders by five points with two matches remaining but they already have a match in hand on their promotion rivals who also play this Saturday, hosting Doncaster at Vallis Way in their final outing a couple of hours before Saracens take on Coventry in front of a sell-out crowd of 1,400 at Butts Park Arena. 

Saracens hammered Ampthill 69-12 last Monday night as they welcomed fans back to the rebranded StoneX Arena and this week’s short turnaround, allied to Koch’s suspension, has resulted in McCall opting to start Alex Goode for Elliott Obatoyinbo, Alex Lewington for Ali Crossdale, Alec Clarey for Koch, Tim Swinson for Joel Kpoku and Sean Reffell for Calum Clark. 

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The World Cup-winning Koch, who hopes to be in the Springboks squad when they face the Lions in July, was cited after the win over Ampthill for what independent citing commissioner James Hudson alleged was reckless play in the 31st minute. 

Koch accepted the charge and was given a one-week suspension by the independent disciplinary panel comprising Charles Cuthbert (chair) and Tony Wheat. He will be free to play in time for next week’s final match of the regulation season, the visit of Hartpury to London. Saracens will then round off their campaign in June with a two-leg showdown versus Ealing. 

The inclusion of Goode to start at Coventry comes after his run from the bench last Monday in what was his first appearance for the club since the end of his loan switch to the Japanese Top League. McCall is also starting all five of Saracens’ Lions picks – Elliot Daly, Owen Farrell, Mako Vunipola, Jamie George and Maro Itoje – as well as the pair that missed out on selection, Billy Vunipola and Sean Maitland.


SARACENS (vs Coventry, Saturday): 15. Alex Goode; 14. Alex Lewington, 13. Elliot Daly, 12. Nick Tompkins, 11. Sean Maitland; 10. Owen Farrell (capt), 9. Aled Davies; 1. Mako Vunipola, 2. Jamie George, 3. Alec Clarey, 4. Maro Itoje, 5. Tim Swinson, 6. Jackson Wray, 7. Sean Reffell, 8. Billy Vunipola. Reps: 16. Tom Woolstencroft, 17. Ralph Adams-Hale, 18. Josh Ibuanokpe, 19. Callum Hunter-Hill, 20. Andy Christie, 21. Tom Whiteley, 22. Dom Morris, 23. Rotimi Segun.

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Saracens change five for sold-out fixture at Coventry, including a front row switch for suspended Springboks prop Koch