Jump to main content


Heineken Cup Preview: Saracens v Connacht

Heineken Cup Preview: Saracens v Connacht

Having already won in Toulouse, travelling to Allianz Park will hold no fear for Pat Lam’s Connacht side as they look to end the Heineken Cup pool stages by claiming the scalp of Saracens.

HEINEKEN CUP POOL 3: Saturday, January 18

SARACENS (2nd) v CONNACHT (4th), Allianz Park, 1.35pm (live Sky Sports 2 HD/Galway Bay FM/Newstalk/highlights TG4)

Google Ad Manager – 300×250 – In Article

Team News: Connacht have named their side to face Saracens in round 6 of the Heineken Cup at Allianz Park on Saturday afternoon.

Head coach Pat Lam has made four personnel changes to the starting line-up that started last weekend against Zebre.

Dan Parks has been named in the number 10 jersey. The veteran out-half is 27 points shy of reaching the milestone of 500 Heineken Cup points. Mayo-born Gavin Duffy also returns to the back-line this week, starting at fullback.

The second row partnership of Connacht’s most-capped player Michael Swift and captain Craig Clarke returns to boost the pack.

There is a reshuffle in the back row with John Muldoon moving to number 8 in place of the injured Eoin McKeon. Andrew Browne slots in to blindside flanker while Jake Heenan remains on the openside.

Galway-born back Tiernan O’Halloran is named on the replacements bench.

Meanwhile, Saracens boss Mark McCall has named their side to play Connacht as Pool 3 comes to a fascinating finish.

In the backs, Charlie Hodgson replaces Owen Farrell in the number 10 jersey and will be partnered by Richard Wigglesworth at half-back.

Scotland international centre Duncan Taylor comes into the midfield, as Chris Wyles is named among the replacements.

There are also changes up front as Matt Stevens returns to the front row to start at tighthead prop, and behind him England Saxons lock George Kruis partners captain Steve Borthwick in the second row.

SARACENS: Alex Goode; Chris Ashton, Duncan Taylor, Brad Barritt, David Strettle; Charlie Hodgson, Richard Wigglesworth; Mako Vunipola, Schalk Brits, Matt Stevens, Steve Borthwick (capt), George Kruis, Billy Vunipola, Kelly Brown, Ernst Joubert.

Replacements: Jamie George, Richard Barrington, James Johnston, Alistair Hargreaves, Jackson Wray, Neil de Kock, Owen Farrell, Chris Wyles.

CONNACHT: Gavin Duffy; Fionn Carr, Robbie Henshaw, Eoin Griffin, Matt Healy; Dan Parks, Kieran Marmion; Brett Wilkinson, Sean Henry, Nathan White, Michael Swift, Craig Clarke (capt), Andrew Browne, Jake Heenan, John Muldoon.

Replacements: Jason Harris-Wright, Denis Buckley, Rodney Ah You, Michael Kearney, George Naoupu, Paul O’Donohoe, Darragh Leader, Tiernan O’Halloran.

Referee: Leighton Hodges (Wales)
Assistant Referees: Gwyn Morris, Greg Morgan (both Wales)
Television Match Official: Gareth Simmonds (Wales)

Match Odds (Paddy Power): Saracens to win: 1/80; Draw: 60/1; Connacht to win: 16/1

Pre-Match Quotes: Pat Lam (Connacht) – “This is a huge game for Connacht Rugby, we all know that. Win and we qualify for a quarter-final in Europe.

“Big games require your big players to step up and lead the way, so it’s great to be able to call on four of our most experienced players – Gavin, Dan, Swifty and Craig – this week.

“We were unfortunate to lose Eoin McKeon to injury in training this week. He has had to have surgery on his hand and is likely to be out of action for up to two months. It’s a big loss to our back row resources.

“We have a lot of respect for what Saracens are achieving. They are well-coached, well-resourced and top of the English Premiership, with an excellent stadium.

“They have only lost once on this new 4G surface and have racked up a high number of points against opposition teams. If we play as individuals, it will be a long day at the office tomorrow. It’s all about our team effort.”

Mako Vunipola (Saracens) – “As a squad I think we’re in a pretty good place. We’re doing well in the Premiership and last week we were unlucky away to Toulouse, we’ve still got a good chance this weekend and we simply have to take it this Saturday.

“It was tough to take (Saracens’ defeat to Toulouse). We prepared as we do every week, very well, for the game, and to come away with nothing after all the effort was pretty hard.

“Steve (Borthwick) spoke after the game and just said to us that as a squad we have to accept it and turn the loss into a positive by learning from it.

“We’ve been in this place before at Saracens. One year Saracens were beaten by Clermont and we improved, last year we were desperately unlucky not have got the better of a very strong Toulon side and we’ve raised our game since, and now after last week’s setback we are looking to do the same.

“This weekend is massive for us, and we know that we are in for a huge test this Saturday, against a dangerous Connacht team who have nothing to lose and everything to gain.”

Current Form – Saracens – (Aviva Premiership): Won 42-20 away to London Irish; Won 44-12 at home to Gloucester; Won 31-17 at home to Bath; Won 22-12 away to Harlequins; Won 19-12 at home to London Wasps; (Heineken Cup): Won 23-17 away to Connacht; Lost 17-16 at home to Toulouse; (Aviva Premiership): Lost 41-20 away to Northampton Saints; Won 40-3 at home to Newcastle Falcons; (LV= Cup): Won 24-21 away to London Wasps; Won 51-10 at home to the Scarlets; (Aviva Premiership): Won 16-9 away to Exeter Chiefs; Won 24-19 at home to Sale Sharks; (Heineken Cup): Won 39-10 away to Zebre; Won 64-3 at home to Zebre; (Aviva Premiership): Won 49-10 at home to Leicester Tigers; Won 26-8 away to Worcester Warriors; Won 29-8 away to Gloucester; (Heineken Cup): Lost 21-11 away to Toulouse

Connacht – (RaboDirect PRO12): Won 25-16 at home to Zebre; Lost 21-10 away to the Cardiff Blues; Lost 18-7 at home to Ulster; Lost 43-26 at home to the Ospreys; Lost 23-3 away to Benetton Treviso; (Heineken Cup): Lost 23-17 at home to Saracens; Won 33-6 away to Zebre; (RaboDirect PRO12): Lost 16-13 away to Leinster; Lost 19-12 at home to Glasgow Warriors; Lost 24-21 at home to the Scarlets; Lost 43-10 away to Edinburgh; (Heineken Cup): Won 16-14 away to Toulouse; Lost 37-9 at home to Toulouse; (RaboDirect PRO12): Won 14-11 at home to the Newport Gwent Dragons; Lost 22-16 away to Munster; Lost 16-8 at home to Leinster; (Heineken Cup): Won 20-3 at home to Zebre

Top Scorers – 2013/14 Heineken Cup: Saracens – Points: Owen Farrell 51; Tries: Chris Ashton 5; Connacht – Points: Dan Parks 50; Tries: Kieran Marmion 2

Previous European Meetings: 1

Friday, October 11, 2013 – Pool 3 – Connacht 17 Saracens 23, the Sportsground

Heineken Cup Records:

Saracens –
2012/13: Reached the semi-finals
2011/12: Reached the quarter-finals
2010/11: Failed to qualify from Pool 2
2007/08: Reached the semi-finals
2005/06: Failed to qualify from Pool 4
2000/01: Failed to qualify from Pool 3
1999/00: Failed to qualify from Pool 4

Connacht –
2012/13: Failed to qualify from Pool 3
2011/12: Failed to qualify from Pool 6