European Challenge Cup - Game of the Week
All or nothing for Saracens
January 13, 2010
Jonny Wilkinson will start for Toulon at Vicarage Road © Getty Images
Saracens face off against Toulon at Vicarage Road on Thursday with their European Challenge Cup campaign in the balance.
Defeat to their visitors earlier in the season makes this game a must-win, with Sarries five points behind Toulon in the Pool 3 table and only one team to progress to the knockout stages. Brendan Venter has named a strong side with this in mind, and also with the bad taste of his side's back-to-back defeats to London Irish and Leicester still fresh.
Steve Borthwick leads the home side as part of a combative pack, with a front-row of Rhys Gill, Schalk Brits and Carlos Nieto and a dogged back-row of Justin Melck, Andy Saull and Ernst Joubert. Venter has also gone for power in midfield, where Brad Barritt and Kameli Ratuvou are in tandem.
In the back-three, the impressive Alex Goode is at fullback and is joined by Rodd Penney and Chris Wyles. Derick Hougaard and Justin Marshall bring all of their experience at halfback, and will need to be on their toes against a Toulon side boasting a partnership of Matt Henjak and Jonny Wilkinson.
Wilkinson will be keen to impress on home soil after being named in the England Six Nations squad, while former Saracens favourite Kris Chesney starts opposite Borthwick in the second-row. England international Tom May is joined in the centre by powerful Fijian Gabi Lovobalavu, while Christian Loamanu is a constant threat from the wing. Worcester-bound Luke Rooney starts at fullback.
"The current table sees Toulon have a five point advantage on us, so it's pretty clear that we need to get the win on Thursday night if we are to maintain our hopes of making the knockout stages of the competition," said Venter. "Toulon have some very good players and we are keen to make up for our defeat in the South of France earlier in the season. But we have some great players of our own and we will concentrate on our game and do what we need to do to get the win."
Saracens: Alex Goode; Rodd Penney, Kameli Ratuvou, Brad Barritt, Chris Wyles; Derick Hougaard, Justin Marshall; Rhys Gill, Schalk Brits, Carlos Nieto, Steve Borthwick (capt), Tom Ryder, Justin Melck, Andy Saull, Ernst Joubert
Replacements: Fabio Ongaro, Matias Aguero, Tom Mercey, Hugh Vyvyan, Don Barrell, Neil de Kock, Adam Powell, Noah Cato
Toulon: Luke Rooney; Clement Marienval, Gabi Lovobalavu, Tom May, Christian Loamanu; Jonny Wilkinson, Matt Henjak; Saimone Taumoepeau, Jawad Djoudi, Tonga Leaaetoa, Esteban Lozada, Kris Chesney, Olivier Missoup, Cedric Beal, Joe van Niekerk (capt)
Replacements: Sebastien Bruno, Laurent Emmanuelli, Davit Kubriashvili, Damien Tussac, Felipe Contepomi, Mafi Kefu, Anthony Giacobazzi, Tim Ryan
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