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Saracens pick Championship opener XV containing seven changes from last Premiership game 22 weeks ago

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

Saracens have named their team for their long-awaited Championship opener at Cornish Pirates on Saturday, coach Mark McCall selecting a starting XV that shows seven changes from the side that played in their last Gallagher Premiership match 22 weeks ago, a home draw with Bath on October 4. 

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There are four repeat selections in the backline from that match five months ago, wingers Alex Lewington and Sean Maitland along with midfielder Juan Pablo Socino and out-half Manu Vunipola.

In the pack, the survivors from that long-ago last Premiership appearance are the World Cup-winning Vincent Koch, second row Tim Swinson (one of the club’s many players who fell foul of the bubble regulations while on duty with the Barbarians), Callum Hunter-Hill and Jackson Wray, who will skipper the side.    

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Greig Laidlaw guests on the latest Le French Rugby show

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Greig Laidlaw guests on the latest Le French Rugby show

While seven changes might sound a lot dating back to their October draw versus Bath, the XV has only two switches from last week’s 47-12 friendly win at Coventry, Dom Morris and Rotimi Segun dropping to the bench. 

Replacement Saracens prop Alec Clarey recently set the scene for the new Championship season, telling RugbyPass: “I hope to win (promotion) but people need to realise it’s a really tough league 

“A couple of lads have asked what it is like. I was at the Champ for about four years and all I have got to really share is that these lads are hungry in the Champ. They have nothing to lose. I don’t think there is relegation happening for this season coming up, so they have nothing to lose. They will be bringing their all and they will be going at it hammer and tong. They are not to be underestimated at all.” 

SARACENS (vs Cornish Pirates, Saturday)
15. Elliott Obatoyinbo
14. Alex Lewington
13. Duncan Taylor
12. Juan Pablo Socino
11. Sean Maitland
10. Manu Vunipola
9. Aled Davies
1. Richard Barrington
2. Kapeli Pifeleti
3. Vincent Koch
4. Callum Hunter-Hill
5. Tim Swinson
6. Mike Rhodes
7. Sean Reffell
8. Jackson Wray (capt)
Replacements
16. Sam Crean
17. Eroni Mawi
18. Alec Clarey
19. Joel Kpoku
20. Andy Christie
21. Tom Whiteley
22. Dom Morris
23. Rotimi Segun

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Tim 2 hours ago
'It’s a mental thing': Joe Schmidt on the Wallabies' flyhalf issues

Ben Donaldson had not played Super Rugby for the past eight weeks. Surely, he was playing Shute Shield for Randwick in that time to keep up the fitness…?? Eight weeks is a long break to be thrust in against a hungry skillful side like Georgia who deserve to be in the “7 Nations”. (Italy, Wales & Scotland v Georgia, can’t wait to see those ones). In the second test against Wales, Donaldson was put on for nine minutes. That was a mistake from the coaching team, who already knew he was starting the following week against Georgia. They should have put him on for 20-25 minutes, with Nick Whyte at halfback, and their combination from the Force would have flowed. Donaldsons first 20 minutes against Georgia was a shocker. However, well done to Joe Schmidt for keeping him out there because Donaldsons game improved as the rust came off, he was hammered a few times and handled it and he came into his groove. He made mistakes which they will all learn from. Ben Donaldson is a naturally talented rugby player who the Wallabies have to stick with at no.10. “Over the black Dot-aldson” is a good nick name for him with his awesome goal kicking style. It looks as though, off the boot, it’s going to hit the post. Then it just curves in beautifully every time, once he is in the groove. Donaldsons play this season for the Force, with Kurtley and co., was amazing to watch. Kurtley making one of the best comebacks in history. Donaldson has to be played consistently with Flash Gordon, Big LEN, McReight, Tupou, Kellaway. Oh, that’s right, there is Bell, Kerevi, Petaia (This list does go on a bit). Donaldson will be slotting these weapons into gaps, and into the clear, before we know it… One more thing which I will just assume is happening, just include JOC in the Wallabies squad. He is a rugby genius. His skills, wisdom and experience would be infectious around the Wallabies relatively inexperienced backline. JOC has mastered the art of all the positions long ago. JOC is so skilled and match fit atm taking THE REDS, at no.10, within a point of beating Wales. He can come off the bench and slot into the backline for the Wallabies at 10, 12, 13 or 15 at any stage of a test match. Ummm yeah, not bad… I am assuming that BIG JOE, Laurie “Gandalf” Fischer, Mike “The scrum Doctor” Cron and the team obviously already know all this. I am just a passionate rugby union supporter, and I am very happy that these guys are in charge of the coaching duties, what a coaching team the Wallabies have been blessed with. (Good luck with selecting the match day 23 when Will Skelton, who was playing amazing rugby for La Rochelle, and the boys return from Europe/Japan, Samu Kerevi…???) Now just imagine having Bernie Larkham, Toutai Kefu, Nathan Grey and John “Nobody” Eales as your coaching apprentices… GO AUSTRALIAN RUGBY… Doing a great job Phil Waugh, Joe Roff, Dan Herbert and the team. An amazing three years ahead. GO THE WALLABIES… GO THE WALLAROOS… GO THE 7’s in Paris…

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