Exiles wary of fired up Sarries
January 27, 2007

London Irish boss Brian Smith accepts Guinness Premiership rivals Saracens will provide tough opposition for his team at Vicarage Road on Sunday.

Although the Exiles are boosted by England centre Mike Catt's return for a first start since mid-December, they face a Saracens side making an impressive push towards the title play-off zone.

Saracens have won four of their last six league games, claiming seven victories out of eight in all competitions, as they also secured a European Challenge Cup quarter-final place.

Smith said: "We are under no illusions about the difficulty of our task.

"Saracens are on a roll, and Alan Gaffney (Saracens rugby director) has the luxury of picking from a talented, fit and almost full-strength squad.

"We believe we are capable of a top-six Premiership finish, but we realise that a lot of other clubs have a similar target."

Under an agreement between England and the Premiership clubs, RBS 6 Nations squad members Andy Farrell and Shane Geraghty will not be involved in Sunday's encounter.

The game falls less than seven days before England's Six Nations opener against Scotland, so Saracens centre Farrell and Irish fly-half Geraghty have both been stood down.

Gaffney makes just two changes following last week's Challenge Cup draw against Glasgow, calling up hooker Matt Cairns and flanker Kris Chesney.

Gaffney said: "Having reviewed our recent matches against London Irish, we will have to make sure we keep our error-count low.

"In recent games against them, we played a lot of rugby, but we lost because of mistakes and conceding turnover ball.

"We cannot afford to do that, and, because of the pace in their side, it makes them very dangerous in all areas of the pitch.

"This is a very important fixture for us. We've only played one game in the Premiership this month, and going into the break for the Six Nations, we are keen to cement our place in the top half of the table."

Elsewhere in the Premiership, Wasps played their part for England last night by resting Test captain Phil Vickery from the appointment with Worcester at Sixways.

Vickery has been nursing a sore ankle, so Wasps rugby director Ian McGeechan left him out of Wasps' match-day 22, but also allayed any fears about his fitness for next weekend.

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