Preview: Saracens v Leicester

Saracens entertain a smarting Leicester Tigers outfit in a mouth-watering Guinness Premiership clash at Vicarage Road on Sunday.

Richard Cockerill’s men were on the receiving end of a 17-30 result against table-topping Gloucester at Welford Road last week, a defeat which has deeply wounded the Tigers.

“It was tough to take, especially at home, but we did not deserve to win and as soon as you realise that you can move on and improve,” said the former hooker, speaking to the club’s official website.

“We need to deal with the disappointment of losing and then get on with the job in hand against Saracens.”

Leicester’s acting head coach has made several alterations to that side with front-row duo Mefin Davies and Martin Castrogiovanni handed their first season starts.

There are also notable rotations at half-back, where Paul Burke partners Ben Youngs, whilst Sam Vesty returns at inside centre and Ayoola Erinle is named on the wing.

“Some of the guys have played four full games on the trot while others have had to wait for their opportunities,” added Cockerill.

“The guys have stepped up really well during this opening period and now we are looking for them to carry that on and for others to take the opportunities as they come along.

“We are sixth in the table but we have lost one in four. The table does not concern me at the moment; it is more about getting the results.

“Saracens have also had a good start, but we are looking forward to the challenge.”

Like the Tigers, hosts Saracens hold a record of three wins from four thus far, as both parties begin to welcome back World Cup personnel.

However, director of rugby Alan Gaffney has resisted calling on the likes of Mosese Rauluni, Kameli Ratuvou and Fabio Ongaro, with back-row Paul Gustard the only change to his XV since recovering from injury.

Tom Mercey and Dave Seymour also return to the squad but must settle for places on the bench for what is expected to be a tight affair.

“Leicester have been one of the elite sides in the competition for many years and we will show them a lot of respect – especially as they are the reigning champions,” said Gaffney.

“But they are also a side we know we can beat if we play to our potential. The games against Leicester have been pretty close in recent seasons and fiercely contested – I’m sure that Sunday will be no different.

“We’ve been pleased with our start to the season and we have played some exciting rugby – but we know there is still a way to go before reaching the levels we know we are capable of.”

Form: Gloucester are the only side to dampen these two’s impressive starts to the new season. Saracens were edged out 31-38, with Leicester going down 17-30 last weekend to the in-form leaders. The Tigers last lost two Premiership matches on the spin back in 2003, and they regularly struggle at Vicarage Road. However, Saracens’ general record against the Tigers levels out this statistic as they have won just two of their last 13 meetings with the visitors.

Saracens: 15 Richard Haughton, 14 Edd Thrower, 13 Kevin Sorrell, 12 Adam Powell, 11 Rodd Penney, 10 Glen Jackson, 9 Neil de Kock, 8 Ben Skirving, 7 Richard Hill, 6 Paul Gustard, 5 Hugh Vyvyan, 4 Kris Chesney, 3 Census Johnston, 2 Matt Cairns, 1 Kevin Yates.
Replacements: 16 Andy Kyriacou, 17 Tom Mercey, 18 Iain Fullarton, 19 Dave Seymour, 20 Alan Dickens, 21 Gordon Ross, 22 Noah Cato.

Leicester: 15 Geordan Murphy, 14 Johne Murphy, 13 Ollie Smith, 12 Sam Vesty, 11 Ayoola Erinle, 10 Paul Burke, 9 Ben Youngs, 8 Jordan Crane, 7 Luke Abraham, 6 Brett Deacon, 5 Marco Wentzel, 4 Louis Deacon (c), 3 Martin Castrogiovanni, 2 Mefin Davies, 1 Boris Stankovich.
Replacements: 16 Benjamin Kayser, 17 Julian White, 18 Richard Blaze, 19 Tom Croft, 20 Christophe Laussucq, 21 Matt Cornwell, 22 Tom Varndell.

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