Heineken Cup Pool 3: Saracens v Connacht match preview

Last updated: 18th January 2014  

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Connacht boss Pat Lam has made four changes to his starting XV for his side's crucial Heineken Cup clash with Saracens on Saturday at Allianz Park.

Dan Parks has been selected in the number 10 jersey - the veteran fly-half is 27 points shy of reaching the milestone of 500 Heineken Cup points. Meanwhile, Gavin Duffy also returns to the back line this week, starting at full-back.

Up front the second-row partnership of Connacht's highest capped player Michael Swift and captain Craig Clarke returns this week to boost the pack.

There is also a reshuffle in the back row with John Muldoon moving to number eight in place of the injured Eoin McKeon; Andrew Brown slots in to blindside flanker while Jake Heenan remains on the openside.

"This is a huge game for Connacht, we all know that," added Lam. "Win and we qualify for a quarter-final in Europe. Big games require your big players to step up and lead the way, so it's great to be able to call on four of our most experienced players Gavin, Dan, Swifty and Craig this week.

"We have a lot of respect for what Saracens are achieving. They are well coached, well-resourced and top of the English premiership, with an excellent stadium. They have only lost once on this new 4G surface and they have racked up a high number of points against opposition teams. If we play as individuals, it will be a long day at the office tomorrow."

Hodgson gets nod

The Londoners have opted to replace Owen Farrell with Charlie Hodgson at fly-half, and he is partnered by Richard Wigglesworth at scrum-half.

Scotland international centre Duncan Taylor comes into the midfield as Chris Wyles is named among the replacements.

In the pack, Matt Stevens returns to the front row starting at tighthead prop, and in the second-row England Saxon lock forward George Kruis partners captain Steve Borthwick.

Saracens: 15 Goode, 14 Ashton, 13 Taylor, 12 Barritt, 11 Strettle, 10 Hodgson, 9 Wigglesworth; 1 M Vunipola, 2 Brits, 3 Stevens, 4 Borthwick (c), 5 Kruis, 6 B Vunipola, 7 Brown, 8 Joubert
Replacements: 16 George, 17 Barrington, 18 Johnston, 19 Hargreaves, 20 Wray, 21 De Kock, 22 Farrell, 23 Wyles

Connacht: 15 Duffy, 14 Carr, 13 Henshaw, 12 Griffin, 11 Healy, 10 Parks, 9 Marmion; 1 Wilkinson, 2 Henry, 3 White, 4 Swift, 5 Clarke (c), 6 Browne, 7 Heenan, 8 Muldoon
Replacements: 16 Harris-Wright, 17 Buckley, 18 Ah You, 19 Kearney, 20 Naoupu, 21 O'Donohoe, 22 Leader, 23 O'Halloran

Watch Saracens take on Connacht live on Sky Sports 2HD at 1.35pm

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