Saracens start the road to redemption
PREMIERSHIP ROUND ONE: Alex Lozowski says Saracens are fully focused on hitting the ground running as they head to Ashton Gate for the Premiership opener against Bristol on Friday.
Saracens return to the Premiership after a one-year absence.
The England international, Lozowski, is back after spending last season in Montpellier and is straight into the starting line-up to take on the semifinalists from the 20/21 campaign.
Ralph Adams-Hale starts at loosehead alongside Tom Woolstencroft and Marco Riccioni in the front row, who makes his Premiership debut after the off-season move from Benetton.
Nick Isiekwe and Tim Swinson will operate in the second row, whilst Jackson Wray captains the team from blindside next to Ben Earl and Billy Vunipola at the base of the scrum.
Aled Davies gets the nod at scrumhalf with Lozowski his halfback partner at Ashton Gate. Nick Tompkins and Dom Morris continue their midfield partnership which functioned well in pre-season, and in the back-three there is plenty of pace in the form of Rotimi Segun, Alex Lewington and Elliott Obatoyinbo.
On the bench, there is lots of Premiership experience with the likes of Richard Barrington amongst the replacements, and there could be a Saracens debut for Joe Simpson who arrived this week on a loan deal from Gloucester.
Lozowski said Sarries can’t wait for the curtain-raiser on Friday against the Bears.
“We’ve had a good pre-season which is now behind us, so we’re fully focused on getting off to a good start and hitting the ground running,” Lozowski said.
“Bristol have evolved their game over the last few years and are very organised so we need to be ready for a great challenge.”
Bristol Bears, facing the newly promoted Saracens at Ashton Gate Stadium, will be captained by Steven Luatua from the back row.
The Bears include eight internationals in the starting line-up.
Harry Randall returns from England duty to take his place in the 23-man squad among the replacements.
Last year’s Premiership semifinalists, the Bears, have lost two of their last three matches at Ashton Gate in the competition – to Exeter Chiefs in Round 17 and Harlequins in the semifinals.
The Bears have begun the season in Round One at Ashton Gate twice before, winning on both occasions against Bath in 2018 and 2019.
Saracens’ only league defeat last season was at Cornish Pirates in the RFU Championship in Round One in March 2021.
Yet their only victory in their last five Premiership encounters was 40-17 at home to Exeter in September 2020.
The last five fixtures between the two clubs have all been won by the home side on the day, whilst Saracens only previous victory at Ashton Gate was 39-0 on 30 September 2016.
@rugby365com: Saracens by five points
Bristol Bears: 15 Charles Piutau, 14 Luke Morahan, 13 Piers O’Conor, 12 Alapati Leiua, 11 Ioan Lloyd, 10 Callum Sheedy, 9 Andy Uren, 8 Nathan Hughes, 7 Dan Thomas, 6 Steven Luatua (captain), 5 Chris Vui, 4 Ed Holmes, 3 Max Lahiff, 2 Harry Thacker, 1 Jake Woolmore.
Replacements: 16 Will Capon, 17 Yann Thomas, 18 Jake Armstrong, 19 Dave Attwood, 20 Jake Heenan, 21 Harry Randall, 22 Sam Bedlow, 23 Niyi Adeolokun.
Saracens: 15 Elliott Obatoyinbo, 14 Alex Lewington, 13 Dom Morris, 12 Nick Tompkins, 11 Rotimi Segun, 10 Alex Lozowski, 9 Aled Davies, 8 Billy Vunipola, 7 Ben Earl, 6 Jackson Wray (captain), 5 Tim Swinson, 4 Nick Isiekwe, 3 Marco Riccioni, 2 Tom Woolstencroft, 1 Ralph Adams-Hale.
Replacements: 16 Kapeli Pifeleti, 17 Richard Barrington, 18 Alec Clarey, 19 Callum Hunter-Hill, 20 Sean Reffell, 21 Joe Simpson, 22 Manu Vunipola, 23 Ben Harris.
Date: Friday, September 17
Venue: Ashton Gate
Kick-off: 19.45 (18.45 GMT)
Referee: Wayne Barnes
Assistant referees: Paul Dix and Jamie Leahy
TMO: Tom Foley