Saracens and Toulon name teams for Champions Cup quarter-finals
Owen Farrell has been selected by the reigning champions for trip to the Aviva
Owen Farrell during Saracens training in St Albans this week. Photograph: Warren Little/Getty Images
Farrell suffered a quad muscle injury during England’s Six Nations loss to Ireland at Twickenham 13 days ago.
Saracens rugby director Mark McCall said earlier this week that Farrell probably had a 50-50 chance of making the Leinster game. He missed last Saturday’s Aviva Premiership victory over Harlequns.
But the number 10, who was last season’s Champions Cup top points-scorer, is set to start in Dublin, with his fellow England international Alex Lozowski on the replacements’ bench.
Lock George Kruis, who also sat out the Quins game, has recovered from a back injury to partner Maro Itoje in the second-row, while prop Mako Vunipola returns to the starting XV and captain Brad Barritt features after having surgery on a fractured cheekbone in midweek.
Barritt, meanwhile, believes the Champions Cup holders will face “the form team in Europe” this weekend.
“We know what is on the line now, we know we are playing against the form team in Europe,” former England centre Barritt said.
“However, we know as the Saracens team when we are close to what we can do in terms if our performance, we go there with full confidence.
“This team has always thrived on these big occasions and going to these big stadiums. We got a taste for it last year with the semi-final at the Aviva Stadium against Munster.
“We were outnumbered in fans and in not having the comfort you have at home, but this team is galvanised by these experiences.
“We had a similar challenge in 2013, when we finished as eighth seed and had to go to Ravenhill for Ulster, who were the top seeds. It was probably an even more daunting environment in terms of a passionate home crowd.
“Playing at the Aviva Stadium is probably a little bit in our favour in that it is not Leinster’s out and out home ground. They don’t play there every week.
“It is a huge opportunity for this team (Saracens) to stake a claim. Win this game and you are in the hunt and you have a semi-final in your own country.”
Munster and Toulon, two teams with five European titles between them, meet at Thomond Park in Limerick on Saturday.
Despite their big win over Clermont last weekend, the Top14 outfit have still altered their XV. Ma’a Nonu and Francois Trinh-Duc come in for Malakai Fekitoa and Anthony Belleau, while Guilhem Guirado returns in the frontrow. Juandre Kruger comes in for Romain Taofifenua in the secondrow and Duane Vermeulen will wear the number eight jersey in a backrow including Facundo Isa and Raphael Lakafia.
TOULON: Chris Ashton; Josua Tuisova, Mathieu Bastareaud, Ma’a Nonu; Semi Radradra; Francois Trinh-Duc, Eric Escande; Florian Fresia, Guilhem Guirado, Marcel Van Der Merwe; Juandre Kruger, Dave Attwood; Raphael Lakafia, Facundo Isa, Duane Vermeulen.
Replacements: Anthony Etrillard, Xavier Chiocci, Emerick Setiano, Romain Taofifenua, Anthony Belleau, Malakai Fekitoa, Alby Mathewson, Samu Manoa.
SARACENS: Alex Goode; Liam Williams, Marcelo Bosch, Brad Barritt, Sean Maitland; Owen Farrell, Richard Wigglesworth; Mako Vunipola, Jamie George, Juan Figallo; Maro Itoje, George Kruis; Nick Isiekwe, Schalk Burger, Jackson Wray.
Replacements: Schalk Brits, Richard Barrington, Titi Lamositele, Dom Day, Blair Cowan, Ben Spencer, Alex Lozowski, Chris Wyles.