TEAM NEWS | Vodacom Bulls v Saracens Men (ICC - Rd 1)
Director of Rugby Mark McCall says the Investec Champions Cup is a special competition as he prepares for his side to start their campaign against The Bulls at Loftus Versfeld Stadium.
The Men in Black have an enormous challenge ahead of them in Pretoria against the in-form Bulls, and are hoping to start strongly in their pursuit of a fourth European trophy.
The coaching team have named a side stacked with experience for the South African test, with six changes to the starting line-up from the XV that took on Northampton last week.
Mako Vunipola and Jamie George both return to the front-row alongside Alec Clarey, and Maro Itoje is joined by Hugh Tizard in a powerful second-row.
The dynamic back-row of Juan Martin Gonzalez, Andy Christie and Billy Vunipola will be looking to provide quick ball for the back-line on the hard surface in Pretoria.
Ivan van Zyl faces his former side at scrum-half, and captain Owen Farrell returns in the number 10 shirt after recovering from a minor knee injury.
Nick Tompkins has Elliot Daly for company in the midfield, and the back-three of Sean Maitland, Alex Lewington and Alex Goode will need to take any chances that come their way.
On the bench Christian Judge will make his 50th appearance when called upon, Theo McFarland can add some stardust, and Lucio Cinti also provides plenty of versatility to the backline.
McCall can't wait for Saturday’s huge occasion in the Rainbow nation.
“It feels different and feels special. We’ve had a good relationship with this competition for a very long period of time and games don’t come much tougher than the Bulls away. It’s a challenge, but that normally brings out the best of the group we’ve got.”
Saracens Men team to play Vodacom Bulls:
1 Mako Vunipola
2 Jamie George
3 Alec Clarey
4 Maro Itoje
5 Hugh Tizard
6 Juan Martin Gonzalez
7 Andy Christie
8 Billy Vunipola
9 Ivan Van Zyl
10 Owen Farrell (C)
11 Sean Maitland
12 Nick Tompkins
13 Elliot Daly
14 Alex Lewington
15 Alex Goode
16 Theo Dan
17 Tom West
18 Christian Judge
19 Theo McFarland
20 Toby Knight
21 Aled Davies
22 Olly Hartley
23 Lucio Cinti
Eroni Mawi, Alex Lozowski, Ben Earl, Callum Hunter-Hill, Josh Hallett, Marco Riccioni, Nick Isiekwe, Ollie Hoskins, Ralph Adams-Hale, Rotimi Segun, Tom Willis, Tom Woolstencroft.