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Saracens name a dozen internationals in star-studded XV for promotion final first leg

By Liam Heagney

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Promotion-chasing Saracens have named a starting team containing a dozen internationals – including all five of their 2021 Lions tour picks – for Sunday’s Championship final first leg away to Ealing Trailfinders.  

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Mark McCall’s side are seeking to earn the right to play in next season’s Gallagher Premiership following their automatic relegation after repeated breaches of the salary cap. 

Saracens won eight of their nine games in the Championship to finish second on the table after their final match against lowly Hartpury was cancelled, preventing them from finishing in first place ahead of Ealing. 

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There was initially an appeal threatened after the cancelled match was declared a 0-0 draw with no match points awarded. That meant Saracens would likely have had to travel to Ealing for the second leg of the final. 

However, Trailfinders offered to swap the fixtures around and the opening match now takes place at Vallis Way with the second leg to be hosted by Saracens. “Ealing chose to play the game at home first, it wasn’t our choice,” said McCall in midweek before naming his team on Friday that shows two changes from the XV that defeated Coventry 73-0.  

Vincent Koch returns at tighthead after serving a one-match ban while Michael Rhodes is included in the back row in place of Sean Reffell. Skipper Jackson Wray told the club website: “It’s a massive occasion and it’s the one that we wanted. It’s been a long build-up and the longest pre-season ever but it’s finally here which is massively exciting.”

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SARACENS (vs Ealing, Sunday): 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. Vincent Koch, 4. Maro Itoje, 5. Tim Swinson, 6. Michael Rhodes, 7. Jackson Wray, 8. Billy Vunipola. Reps: 16. Tom Woolstencroft, 17. Ralph Adams-Hale, 18. Alec Clarey, 19. Callum Hunter-Hill, 20. Sean Reffell, 21. Tom Whiteley, 22. Duncan Taylor, 23. Rotimi Segun.

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