Preview: London Irish v Saracens

London Irish has announced an experienced starting line-up for the Guinness Premiership encounter with Saracens at the Madejski Stadium on Friday.

The re-arranged fixture, it was originally scheduled for January 7th but had to be postponed because of a water-logged pitch, means that the Exiles have had a five day turnaround.

Essential squad rotation and the return of Shane Geraghty from international duty with England have resulted in five changes to the starting line-up of the team that played last Sunday.

Among the backs Delon Armitage returns at full-back with Geraghty taking over at fly-half.

In the pack James Hudson starts in the second row and Olivier Magne and Juan Leguizamon come in at openside flanker and number eight respectively.

Centre Mike Catt is unavailable for selection due to the leg injury he sustained in last Saturday’s match at the Millennium Stadium, so Bob Casey continues as captain in Catt’s absence.

“Careful management of our playing resources is essential at this time so there has only been light training for the squad this week,” said Brian Smith, London Irish Director of Rugby.

“We played with confidence and control and courage last Sunday, more of the same will be needed tomorrow.

“Wherever you look in the Saracens squad there is real class from full back through the backs to the tight five and back row.

“Their consistency over recent months has seen them move to fourth place in the league.

We didn’t do ourselves justice when we played them in the reverse fixture at Vicarage Road in January, we intend putting that right tomorrow evening,” Smith added.

Meanwhile, Saracens have made just one change to their starting line-up.

Adam Powell returns from international duty with England Under-20s to take the inside centre role in the only change from the side which beat Bristol 36-5 last weekend to move into the top four of the Premiership.

As a result of Powell’s inclusion, Kevin Sorrell reverts to outside centre and Rodd Penney moves to the bench.

The only other change in the 22 comes among the replacements with Tom Mercey getting the nod ahead of Nick Lloyd after being away with England U20 for the past two weeks.

“It hard on the guys who have missed out this week and this was a very tough team selection to make,” said Saracens coach Richard Graham.

“We were delighted with the result against Bristol last weekend and we’re looking to carry that into Friday.

“That performance has moved us into the top four and we’ve given ourselves a great opportunity. It’s now up to us to hold on to that place.

“But London Irish have been playing very well and certainly have some momentum going into the game.

“Three out of our four remaining games in the Premiership are away, but we have been pleased with our record on our travels this season and if you are going to be a top four side and look to win trophies, you need to win away from home.

“Their recent wins have given them more confidence and they are starting to put in the kind of performances that saw them finish third in the Premiership, but we’ve prepared well this week and are looking forward to the challenge.”

Form: London Irish are in a rich vein of form at present with five successive victories in the Guinness Premiership and 21 league points picked up in those encounters. The Exiles’ last defeat at home in the Premiership was 11-22 to Gloucester on 10 November. Saracens have lost just one of their last half a dozen matches in the Guinness Premiership: 14-20 at Newcastle on 9 March, but Sarries have not won on the road since a 20-16 victory at Harlequins on 22 December. London Irish won 19-8 when the two sides met in the Premiership at Vicarage Road on 28 January. The two sides have already clashed this season at Madejski Stadium in the EDF Energy Cup: London Irish winning 36-24 o

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