Sarries to load up on star power for Leinster showdown
CHAMPIONS CUP SPOTLIGHT: Saracens and Exeter expect to enter their quarterfinals with two key players available.
Mako Vunipola and Stuart Hogg are winning their fitness battles.
Double winners Saracens emerged with a 40-17 victory from their Premiership clash at Allianz Park, sweeping aside a similarly-inexperienced team as the clubs rested their stars ahead of next weekend’s European action.
Vunipola has been absent since August 15 because of a back spasm, but Saracens boss Mark McCall is considering him for the starting line-up for Saturday’s clash with Leinster in Dublin.
Despite missing the last six rounds of the Premiership, Vunipola could be thrust straight into his club’s most important game of the season at the expense of Richard Barrington.
“We are hopeful and expect Mako to be available,” McCall said.
“We have to weigh it up because Richard has been playing really well. We will make that decision as the week goes on,” he added.
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Hogg, the Scotland fullback, hurt his hip in a 35-22 victory over Gloucester last Wednesday, but is on track to be in contention for Exeter’s knockout collision with English rivals Northampton on Sunday.
“Stuart should be fine. He was running [Saturday] before we left Exeter,” Chiefs director of rugby Rob Baxter said.
“It wasn’t flat out but the fact he’s running already means he should be running by Tuesday or Wednesday.”
The looming European games, combined with Exeter’s confirmation as Premiership regular season winners and Saracens’ relegation for repeated salary cap breeches meant the renewal of their rivalry had little meaning.
McCall, however, viewed the five-try rout as an encouraging statement ahead of next season’s drop into the Championship.
“We’re thrilled because that was a big achievement for a very young group. Most of them who played against Exeter also played on Wednesday,” McCall said.
“They brought a lot of energy and togetherness despite having played only four days ago. Exeter was also a young side but they didn’t play on Wednesday.”