TEAM NEWS | Loughborough Lightning vs Saracens Women (AP15s Rd18)
Everything is on the line tomorrow at Franklin's Gardens, as Saracens Women look to secure a home semi-final against Exeter.
Last weekend's thrilling victory over Bristol confirmed that Alex Austerberry's side will face the Devonians in the knockouts, but they will need to win and rely on a favour from Gloucester-Hartpury, if they are to play in front of the StoneX crowd.
Reflecting on the win, fullback Jess Breach admitted that the result was a crucial one for her side, as they managed to win without being at their best.
"The five points were really crucial. We're fighting for a home semi-final and, considering where we put ourselves earlier in the season, we've done really well to turn it around. We got a stern talking to at half-time, but it was what we needed. In that second half, we showed more of what we're about. It wasn't our best day at the office, but we got the points we needed. We're really going to learn and grow from this."
Loughborough will be no pushovers though at Franklin's Gardens. Saracens secured a bonus point victory over the Midlanders at the start of the season, but this match will be an altogether tougher prospect. Breach is expecting a challenging encounter at the home of Northampton Saints, but admitted that her side were enthused for what lies ahead.
"They're a good team and with Helena Rowland in the side, I'm expecting them to pass and run from everywhere. We're excited for the challenge and Franklin's Gardens is a really nice pitch to play on. It's going to be a battle upfront too."
Ahead of this one, Director of Rugby Alex Austerberry has made several alterations to his matchday squad.
Hannah Botterman returns to the side to start at loosehead, alongside May Campbell and Kelsey Clifford in the front row.
In the second row, Fi McIntosh is joined by Sophie Tansley, whilst Grace Moore shifts into the back row, alongside Sharifa Kasolo and Poppy Cleall.
Leanne Infante has been given the nod to start at scrum half, alongside Holly Aitchison.
Sarah McKenna and Sydney Gregson continue their centre partnership, with McKenna captaining the side.
In the back three, Isla Alejandro starts against her former club, with Coreen Grant on the other wing and Breach at fullback.
There's plenty of international experience on the bench, with Jodie Rettie, Mackenzie Carson and Alex Ellis providing front row cover, with Sonia Green and Maya Montiel the other forwards named in the side.
Ella Wyrwas is the replacement scrum half, with Cara Wardle and Flo Williams providing the other options in the backline.
Breach and her teammates know that they will be facing Exeter in the semi-finals next weekend, but the England international insists that her side can only focus on their task at hand.
"For us, it's all about controlling the things we can control. That means looking to get those five points and then seeing what happens between Gloucester and Exeter. We've put ourselves in this position, but it's all about putting our best foot forward, whether that's at home or going away to Exeter."
Saracens Women's Team vs Loughborough Lightning
1. Hannah Botterman
2. May Campbell
3. Kelsey Clifford
4. Fiona McIntosh
5. Sophie Tansley
6. Grace Moore
7. Sharifa Kasolo
8. Poppy Cleall
9. Leanne Infante
10. Holly Aitchison
11. Isla Alejandro
12. Sarah McKenna (captain)
13. Sydney Gregson
14. Coreen Grant
15. Jess Breach
16. Jodie Rettie
17. Mackenzie Carson
18. Alex Ellis
19. Sonia Green
20. Maya Montiel
21. Ella Wyrwas
22. Cara Wardle
23. Flo Williams