TEAM NEWS | Saracens Women vs Exeter Chiefs Women (PWR - Rd 8)
It's got all the makings of a humdinger on Saturday afternoon, as Saracens Women and Exeter Chiefs go head-to-head.
The top two meet at StoneX on Saturday, with the right to sit at the top of the league standings on the line.
The last time the two sides met was in last season's semi-final, with the Devonians coming out on top that afternoon at Sandy Park. Welsh international Georgia Evans was part of the Saracens side that day, but she insists that her side are very much looking forward, rather than looking at what has come before.
"I don’t think we need any extra motivation for an Exeter clash. Last year was tough for us, but we learnt a lot from it. It’s always been a big physical game when our sides play, and we don’t want to be on the wrong side this time. A top of the table clash says it all. It’s always a hard fight against Exeter, we know their threats all too well. It’s about nullifying them early and playing our game. We want to protect our home record, and we also haven’t forgotten about the last time we met them."
For Evans, tomorrow's match will also be a landmark one, as she prepares to make her 50th appearance in Saracens colours and she admits that it will be a huge occasion.
"It’s pretty special. Saracens is a special club, and from day one, it's felt like home to me. They’ve helped me grow as a person and a player and we’ve achieved so much as a group. It’s pretty mad to think they’ve put up with me for this long! To be able to run out for the 50th time is pretty unbelievable and one I feel blessed and grateful for."
After a thumping victory over Sale Sharks last weekend, Director of Rugby Alex Austerberry has again freshened up his side.
Up front, there's a first start in Saracens colours for McKinley Hunt against her former club, after a try scoring debut last weekend. She is joined in the front-row by May Campbell and Donna Rose.
The second-row sees Evans return to the side alongside Rosie Galligan, with the back-row remaining unchanged from last weekend's victory up north, as Sophie de Goede, Marlie Packer and Poppy Cleall combine again.
It's all-change at half-back, as Ella Wyrwas comes in from the start alongside Amelia MacDougall, with Sophie Bridger and Sydney Gregson in the centres.
The back-three is unchanged, with Paige Farries and Jess Breach lining up alongside co-captain Lotte Clapp, who will make her 150th appearance for the club this weekend.
Amongst the replacements, Bryony Field, Akina Gondwe and Kelsey Clifford will offer alternative options in the front-row, with Emma Taylor and Grace Moore providing the additional forward cover.
In the backs, the experienced Leanne Infante is joined by Beth Blacklock and Coreen Grant in looking to make an impact.
It's been a superb start to the season for Saracens, but Evans insists that her side must continue on their upward trajectory, as they enter into the middle part of the season, with a focus on laying down a marker to themselves, as much as anyone else.
"We've had the start we wanted and it’s the start we needed as well. We had a statement to make, not only to the league but to ourselves. It’s vital we continue building. This middle part of the season is always tough and will test everyone’s squads, so it’s important we stay tight, keep playing some of our best rugby and enjoy the wins when they come. It will give us the best opportunity come the end of the season, if we keep building on the momentum we’ve created now."
Saracens Women Team vs Exeter Chiefs:
1. McKinley Hunt
2. May Campbell
3. Donna Rose
4. Georgia Evans
5. Rosie Galligan
6. Sophie de Goede
7. Marlie Packer (co-captain)
8. Poppy Cleall
9. Ella Wyrwas
10. Amelia MacDougall
11. Lotte Clapp (co-captain)
12. Sophie Bridger
13. Sydney Gregson
14. Paige Farries
15. Jess Breach
16. Bryony Field
17. Akina Gondwe
18. Kelsey Clifford
19. Emma Taylor
20. Grace Moore
21. Leanne Infante
22. Beth Blacklock
23. Coreen Grant