Leaders clash as Sarries face Castres
December 10, 2009
Glen Jackson returns at fly-half for Saracens © Getty Images
The Stade Pierre Anoine will host a European Challenge Cup meeting between two of this season's surprise packages as Top 14 leaders Castres host Guinness Premiership table-toppers Saracens on Friday.
Brendan Venter's Sarries are in need of the points after slipping to defeat against Toulon in their last away fixture in Europe and the same applies to Castres, who fell at home to Jonny Wilkinson's men in the opening round.
The home side slipped up with a 16-9 loss to Bourgoin at the weekend, blotting a copybook that has seen a thumping win over Toulouse in recent weeks.
Saracens remain unbeaten at home and have dropped only two points so far on the domestic stage but their growing stock has not been translated in to Europe yet.
Glen Jackson returns along with Moses Rauluni at halfback, with England skipper Steve Borthwick leading the side from the second-row. Springbok Wikus van Heerden is joined in the back-row by two compatriots in Justin Melck and Ernst Joubert.
Richard Haughton takes the fullback jersey and is selected in a back-three also featung Noah Cato and Michael Tagicakibau.
A place in the Heineken Cup is in their sights thanks to their excellent Premiership form, but the dangling carrot of silverware and a place at the top table means that a victory in France would be a welcome development.
"This is effectively a knockout game," said Saracens first team coach Mark McCall. "Knowing that only the pool winner goes through and having already lost in Toulon, there is a greater significance on this game. This is a game we want to win as we want to be involved in big matches, play-off games, semi-finals and finals."
Castres Olympique: T Bouquie, M Bourret, P Christophers (capt), P Garcia, P Bonnefond, R Boscus, T Sanchou, G Lensing, M Bonello, L Ducalcon, K Kulemin, L Michaux, S Malonga, Y Caballero, D Nell
Replacements: M Rallier, C Hoeft, M Rolland, J Tekori, A Albouy, R Teulet, C Sika, Y Rayssac
Saracens: R Haughton, N Cato, K Ratuvou, A Powell, M Tagicakibau, G Jackson, M Rauluni, R Gill, E Reynecke, C Nieto, S Borthwick (capt), H Smith, W van Heerden, J Melck, E Joubert
Replacements: S Brits, T Mercey, R Skuse, M Botha, A Saull, J Marshall, J Sharp, K Sorrell
"The real problem rugby faces is the concussion tests in place can be manipulated by the players." Part two of Rory Lamont on concussion. Part one is here
"The Lions is a meritocracy, pure and simple." The Crooked Feed gives its view on Gatland's call for a Lions quota system
The latest Week in Pictures brings you a selection of the best snaps from around the rugby world with a topless Carlin Isles and scantily clad Waratahs players featuring
"There is a duty to ensure that every person who decides to participate in rugby has an understanding of the possible lasting effects of concussion." Rory Lamont tells his story