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Saracens roll out the big guns for Cardiff, including Owen Farrell

By Kim Ekin
(Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

Saracens have made nine changes to their starting XV to host Cardiff in this Sunday’s Challenge Cup round of 16 tie in London, Owen Farrell skippering a team that includes the recalled Maro Itoje, Max Malins and Sean Maitland. Mark McCall’s side cut Brive to ribbons in France last weekend, running up a 55-5 win to progress to the knockout stages of the second-tier European competition.


Fit-again England skipper Farrell was in the vanguard of that eight tries to one success and he will now lead Saracens out again at home this weekend in what will be his third match on the comeback trail since the two ankle operations that sidelined him for four months.

Farrell takes his place in a Saracens backline showing four changes from their French trip, Malins and Maitland taking over on the wings from Alex Lewington and Rotimi Segun. Dom Morris comes into the midfield in place of Elliot Daly with Aled Davies starting at scrum-half for Ivan van Zyl.

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There are five changes to the pack, most notably the inclusion of England talisman Itoje instead of his Test colleague Nick Isiekwe. Richard Barrington is at loosehead for Eroni Mawi, Kapeli Pifeleti at hooker for Tom Woolstencroft, Tim Swinson at lock for Theo McFarland and in the back row, Ben Earl starts this week instead of the benched Billy Vunipola.

Fellow back-rower Andy Christie said: “Cardiff are a strong side who have a lot of big names in their team. I’m excited about it, I’ve never played against them but hopefully, we’re on it like we were last week. We’re looking for consistent performance for 80 minutes and whenever there is a trophy on the line it goes without saying that you want to win.”


SARACENS (vs Cardiff, Sunday)
1 Richard Barrington
2 Kapeli Pifeleti
3 Alec Clarey
4 Maro Itoje
5 Tim Swinson
6 Andy Christie
7 Ben Earl
8 Jackson Wray
9 Aled Davies
10 Owen Farrell (capt)
11 Max Malins
12 Duncan Taylor
13 Dom Morris
14 Sean Maitland
15 Alex Goode

16 Ethan Lewis
17 Eroni Mawi
18 Sam Wainwright
19 Theo McFarland
20 Billy Vunipola
21 Ivan van Zyl
22 Manu Vunipola
23 Rotimi Según


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Jon 5 hours ago
Why Scott Robertson may need to ease big names aside for All Blacks' flexibility

> it was apparent Robertson was worried about his lack of experience at half-back, hence the decision to start veteran TJ Perenara and put Finlay Christie, the next most experienced number nine, on the bench. I don’t think it was this at all. It was a general scope he was putting over all the playerbase, he went with this cohesion factor in every position. > If the main priority is to build different tactical elements to the gameplan, then Ratima is the man in whom Robertson needs to trust and promote. This also I think is antagonist towards the reference game plans. The other plans do not need the speed of which Perenara (atleast) can’t provide, and I think personal is going to be the main point of difference between these games/opponents. That is the aspect of which I think most people will struggle to grasp, a horses for course selection policy over the typical ‘Top All Black 15’. That best 15 group of players is going to have to get broken down into categories. So it test one we saw Christie control the game to nullify the English threats out of existence and grind to a win. In test two we saw Ratima need to come on which dictated that this time they would run them off their feet with speed and the space did open up and the victory did come. Horses for courses. The same concepts are going to exist for every group, front row, lock and loose forward balance, midfield, and outside backs all can have positional changes that the players may be asked to accentualize on and develop. There might be some that _it_ will not ever click for, but they’ll hopefully still be getting to enjoy unbelievable comeback victories and late game shutouts to close it down. Knowing does not mean not enjoying.

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