Saracens v London Irish, Aviva Premiership, December 4
Shell-shocked Sarries out to bounce back
December 2, 2011
Brad Barritt and his Saracens team-mates found the going tough at Franklin's Gardens last weekend © Getty Images
It's second against third in the Aviva Premiership as Saracens collide with London Irish at Vicarage Road on Sunday afternoon.
The reigning champions go into the game still reeling after their stunning capitulation at the hands of Northampton last weekend, Mark McCall's coming out on the wrong side of a 30-8 scoreline after being completely overwhelmed during the opening 30 minutes at Franklin's Gardens.
Given that Sarries were beaten by Biarritz the weekend before, they will be understandably intent on getting back to winning ways against a London Irish side that is in pretty decent form of late, having won three of their last four league games. However, the Exiles have not won on the road since stunning Northampton at Franklin's Gardens in September.
Saracens - Player to Watch: England have a lack of natural opensides and while Andy Saull does not necessarily fall into this category, the back-row is one of the most consistent players Saracens have.
Saracens - Team News: Adam Powell, Matt Stevens, Joe Maddock and Jackson Wray all come into the starting line-up for the match. Brad Barritt misses the game with a calf injury while Charlie Hodgson (knee) also misses out. Wray and Kelly Brown swap places on the bench as do Stevens and Rhys Gill.
London Irish - Player to Watch: London Irish's scrum is consistent but fails to strike fear into opposition sides. Chris Halu'ufia however, from the back of the pack, has the ability to get the side across the gainline at ease, so expect him to shine on Sunday.
London Irish - Team News: London Irish has made four changes from the side that beat London Wasps last Saturday. Alex Corbisiero and Paulica Ion will join James Buckland in the front row. Chris Hala'ufia comes into the back row in place of Jebb Sinclair. Dan Bowden will partner Paul Hodgson at fly half and also captain the side.
Key Battle: Dan Bowden is up against Owen Farrell at fly-half in a what could be an audition for the Six Nations fly-half berth for England. Bowden is Kiwi-born but has recently expressed some interest in potentially lining up at fly-half for the red rose while Farrell has been in the inform fly-half in the Premiership this year.
Trivia: Saracens have not lost three games on the bounce since the 2009/2010 season
Stats: London Irish fullback Tom Homer is the Premiership's top points scorer this season, with 147
"Under the guidance of Toby Booth and Mike Catt, the Exiles have shown once again this season that they are a dangerous side with talented players across the pitch and we must be at our best - but we are really looking forward to it after an excellent week of preparation."
"We are under no illusions of the task ahead of us this Sunday. We will approach it as we do all other games. It is important to put in a positive performance, make the most of every opportunity and put in 100% effort for 80 minutes."
Prediction: Sarries will despatch the Exiles with ease but fail to secure the four-try bonus point
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