Crisis club Saracens will open their Champions Cup title defence in Paris on Sunday with an XV containing just four of the players that started last May’s cup final win over Leinster. 

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Dealing with the ramifications of being found guilty of salary cap breaches by Premiership Rugby, a £5.3million fine and a 35-point deduction if their appeal is unsuccessful, the Londoners suggested they might not go full tilt in trying to successfully defend their European crown. 

Another factor impinging on selection for Racing is the need to rest a contingent of players who were away at a World Cup where England reached the final. 

It has all added up to leave director of rugby Mark McCall picking just four players who started at St James’ Park six months ago. 

The backline features midfielder Alex Lozowski and scrum-half Ben Spencer, who fleetingly featured in the World Cup final off the bench after being called up following a semi-final injury to Willi Heinz.

(Continue reading below…)

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Upfront, American prop Titi Lamositele and Australian Will Skelton are the only repeat picks in a pack that at least includes Jack Singleton, the newly-signed hooker whose World Cup with England amounted to a short run off the bench in a pool game versus the USA.  

Fly-half Manu Vunipola is set for his first strides in Europe with the Londoners, as is winger Rotimi Segun. Callum Hunter-Hill and Matt Gallagher are also in from the outset.

Fresh from his involvement with the World Cup-winning Springboks, Vincent Koch is chosen as a replacement as is fellow South African Damian Willemse.

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SARACENS (v Racing, Sunday)

15. Matt Gallagher, 14. Sean Maitland, 13. Alex Lozowski, 12. Nick Tompkins, 11. Roti Segun, 10. Manu Vunipola, 9. Ben Spencer, 1. Rhys Carre, 2. Jack Singleton, 3. Titi Lamositele, 4. Will Skelton, 5. Callum Hunter-Hill, 6. Nick Isiekwe, 7. Ben Earl, 8. Jackson Wray (capt). Reps: 16. Joe Gray, 17. Sam Crean, 18. Vincent Koch, 19. Joel Kpoku, 20. Sean Reffell, 21. Tom Whiteley, 22. Damian Willemse, 23. Duncan Taylor.

WATCH: Going Pro – The RugbyPass behind the scenes documentary with the Saracens women’s team

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