Heineken Cup Pool 3: Saracens v Zebre match preview
Saracens will be aiming to complete the double over Zebre when they play their first Heineken Cup game at Allianz Park.
Last Updated: 13/12/13 4:47pm
The Aviva Premiership side defeated the Italians 39-10 in Parma last weekend and their hopes of qualifying for the quarter-finals were given a double boost after Connacht's shock 16-14 triumph against Toulouse.
Mark McCall's men will now be looking to take the outright lead in Pool 3 at their brand new 10,000 capacity stadium in north London.
Owen Farrell returns at fly-half for the home team, starting his first game in their number ten shirt since returning from international duty. He is partnered by 30-year-old scrum-half Richard Wigglesworth.
Duncan Taylor and Marcelo Bosch partner each other at centre, wearing the twelve and thirteen jerseys respectively whilst Alex Goode, Chris Ashton and David Strettle make up the back three.
In the pack, Richard Barrington and James Johnston continue as props and are joined by Jamie George in the front-row, with Schalk Brits moving to a bench that includes Mako Vunipola.
Try scorer for a second successive game last weekend George Kruis partners captain Steve Borthwick at lock.
Jacques Burger returns to the fray, with Jackson Wray coming into the side at blindside flanker as Billy Vunipola replaces last week's man of the match Ernst Joubert at number eight.
"If you look at the Zebre squad who we faced last week, in the likes of Marco Bortolami, Quintin Geldenhuys, Mauro Bergamasco, Salvatore Perugini and the familiar face of Kameli Ratuvou, they have players who have vast experience on the domestic and international stage. So we can expect a very competitive match," said McCall.
Ready for battle
Meanwhile, centre Duncan Taylor told the club's official website that Zebre will be looking to claim a scalp following their defeat last time out.
"They've got some good players to return to their starting XV this weekend, and along with the players that we came up against last Saturday in Parma, we know that we'll be in for battle this weekend.
"It was a great performance by the boys over in Parma - in that opening 35 minutes we played some great stuff and towards the end of the game we looked to get stronger. We understand that in the Heineken Cup there are no easy games, so we're fully prepared."
Zebre will be eager to improve on last week's loss with Roberto Quartaroli coming in at thirteen as Kameli Ratuvou moves to twelve in place of Gonzalo Garcia. Luciano Orquera and Brendon Leonard form a new half-back combination.
Andrea Manici has been handed a start at hooker.
Saracens: 15 Goode, 14 Ashton, 13 Bosch, 12 Taylor, 11 Strettle, 10 Farrell, 9 Wigglesworth; 1 Barrington, 2 George, 3 Johnston, 4 Borthwick (c), 5 Kruis, 6 Wray, 7 Burger, 8 Vunipola.
Replacements: 16 Brits, 17 Vunipola, 18 Stevens, 19 Hargreaves, 20 Joubert, 21 de Kock, 22 Hodgson, 23 Ransom.
Zebre: 15 Palazzani, 14 Sarto, 13 Quartaroli, 12 Ratuvou, 11 Venditti, 10 Orquera, 9 Leonard; 1 Aguero, 2 Manici, 3 Leibson, 4 Geldenhuys, 5 Bortolami (c), 6 Bergamasco, 7 Cattina, 8 Vunisa.
Replacements: 16 Giazzon, 17 de Marchi, 18 Chistolini, 19 Van Vuren, 20 Caffini, 21 Chillon, 22 Iannone, 23 Toniolatti.