Select Edition

Northern Northern
Southern Southern
Global Global
NZ NZ

Three changes for Saracens, including a recall for Billy Vunipola

By Liam Heagney
Saracens' Billy Vunipola (Photo by Alex Davidson/Getty Images)

Billy Vunipola will start his first match for Saracens since early April after Mark McCall opted to make three changes to the London club’s XV for Friday’s Gallagher Premiership semi-final at Northampton following their May 18 home loss to Sale.

ADVERTISEMENT

The Montpellier-bound No8 hasn’t been in the starting team since the April 6 Investec Champions Cup hammering at Bordeaux, instead appearing off the bench in the league matches against Gloucester, Bath, Bristol and the Sharks.

Vunipola was arrested and fined while in Spain on a team bonding session following their win at The Rec, and he remained a sub for the following matches at Ashton Gate and StoneX Stadium.

Video Spacer

Do England rugby have to pick Jack Willis after staggering performance against Leinster

Jim Hamilton and Bernard Jackman react to Jack Willis’ incredible performance in the 2024 Investec European Champions Cup Final at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.

Video Spacer

Do England rugby have to pick Jack Willis after staggering performance against Leinster

Jim Hamilton and Bernard Jackman react to Jack Willis’ incredible performance in the 2024 Investec European Champions Cup Final at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.

However, Saracens’ poor showing in their 10-20 loss to Sale cost them a home semi-final and McCall has reacted by altering three of his pack.

Aside from Vunipola taking over from the benched Willis at No8, Nick Isiekwe is also upgraded from the bench to start at lock at the expense of Hugh Tizard.

Fixture
Gallagher Premiership
Northampton
22 - 20
Full-time
Saracens
All Stats and Data

The final alteration sees Marco Riccioni restored as the starting tighthead in Christian Judge’s absence. Ollie Hoskins will provide the back-up for that role in a six/two forwards/backs bench split where Alex Lozowski is named as 23rd man with Alex Goode missing for the rest of the season.

A statement read: “Director of rugby Mark McCall has named a side packed with experience, featuring 20 internationals in the matchday squad as Saracens look to stride towards what could be a seventh Premiership title.

ADVERTISEMENT

“Mako Vunipola, Jamie George and Marco Riccioni start in the front row and will be crucial at scrum time, with Maro Itoje and Nick Isiekwe combining in a dynamic second row. Juan Martin Gonzalez, Ben Earl and Billy Vunipola will be at the base of the scrum and will look to give the backs some much-needed front-foot ball under the floodlights.

“Ivan van Zyl and captain Farrell start as half-backs, with Nick Tompkins and Lucio Cinti continuing in the midfield. The back-three of Tom Parton, Alex Lewington and Elliot Daly will need to be clinical against the formidable Saints defence.

“On the bench, the likes of Theo Dan, Theo McFarland and Tom Willis will look to stamp their authority on the game, and there is a huge injury boost as Alex Lozowski returns to the squad for the first time since November.

“Unfortunately, Rotimi Segun, Sean Maitland and Alex Goode have all been ruled out of the semi-final with season-ending injuries.”

ADVERTISEMENT

SARACENS (vs Northampton): 15. Elliot Daly; 14. Alex Lewington, 13. Lucio Cinti, 12. Nick Tompkins, 11. Tom Parton; 10. Owen Farrell (capt), 9. Ivan van Zyl; 1. Mako Vunipola, 2. Jamie George, 3. Marco Riccioni, 4. Maro Itoje, 5. Nick Isiekwe, 6. Juan Martin Gonzalez, 7. Ben Earl, 8. Billy Vunipola. Reps: 16. Theo Dan, 17. Eroni Mawi, 18. Ollie Hoskins, 19. Hugh Tizard, 20. Theo McFarland, 21. Tom Willis, 22. Aled Davies, 23. Alex Lozowski.

Related

ADVERTISEMENT

Join free

LIVE

{{item.title}}

Trending on RugbyPass

Comments

0 Comments
Be the first to comment...

Join free and tell us what you really think!

Sign up for free
ADVERTISEMENT

Latest Features

Comments on RugbyPass

TRENDING
TRENDING 'Damaging for Irish rugby' - Ex-Munster star blasts protected Leinster 'Damaging for Irish rugby' - Ex-Munster star blasts protected Leinster
Search