Championship club Saracens finally return to competitive action this Saturday, their Trailfinders Cup match at Ealing arriving 15 weeks after they played their last Gallagher Premiership match at home to Bath in early October, a game that ended in a 20-all draw at Allianz Park.

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The Trailfinders Cup is a three-team pre-season tournament featuring Saracens, Ealing and Doncaster which will fill next six weekends ahead of the planned March 6 start to the second-tier Championship, a league that currently expects to have two conferences of six teams. 

Saracens are expected to win their way back into the Premiership following their automatic demotion for repeated salary cap breaches, but they will attempt to earn promotion with a very different squad compared to what they had at their disposal when reaching the Heineken Champions Cup semi-finals last September.

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Referee JP Doyle joins Simon Zebo and Ryan Wilson on RugbyPass Offload

By the time they played Racing in Paris, they had already shipped players such as Ben Earl out on loan, lost George Kruis to Japan while they have now resigned themselves to not having their established Test players at their disposal for most of the Championship season. 

For instance, only Billy Vunipola of their England Test contingent will be involved versus Ealing, but it’s a scenario that has left director of rugby Mark McCall excited about what can be achieved with the club’s lesser-known players.

Asked what names rugby fans should look out for when charting Saracens’ Championship campaign, McCall reeled off a list of relatively unknown players to watch out for. “There’s loads of them,” he enthused. “Ralph Adams-Hale is coming back after a 15 months breakage. Not playing this weekend but he is very close to being back playing again.

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“Tom Woolstencroft, although he is not young, is leading our side and he is getting better and better. We have Joel Kpoku, who is suspended at the moment (due to the Barbarians), but his second row partnership with Callum Hunter-Hill we’re looking forward to. Sean Reffell, he’s carrying a little bit a niggle, and Andy Christie in the back row. 

“I’m making sure I don’t miss anybody out now. Manu Vunipola, his development – again, he suspended at the moment. Elliot (Obatoyinbo) at full-back is going really well as well. So lots of younger players.

“We are really, really happy with the squad we have assembled,” he added. “We have just got to look forward, just roll with the punches at the moment. We don’t have control over how the Championship looks but we are just looking forward to playing again.”

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