England duo Itoje & Vunipola return for Saracens against Wasps

Lock Maro Itoje, who has made 14 appearances for England, broke his jaw against Harlequins on 3 December
Aviva Premiership
Venue: Ricoh Arena Date: Sunday 7 January Kick-off: 15:00 GMT
Coverage: Live score updates on BBC local radio and on the BBC Sport website

England internationals Maro Itoje and Billy Vunipola start their bid to prove their fitness for the forthcoming Six Nations as they return from injury for Saracens against Wasps on Sunday.

Second row Itoje broke his jaw in December, while number eight Vunipola has been out since having surgery on a knee injury in September.

Wasps are without 12 injured players, including England wing Elliot Daly.

England lock Joe Launchbury has a heavy cold, but should start on the bench.

Itoje and Vunipola, who missed the British & Irish Lions tour of New Zealand last summer with a shoulder injury, are two of eight changes to the Sarries XV which beat Worcester last time out.

Mako Vunipola, Vincent Koch and Chris Tolofua form a new front row, scrum-half Richard Wigglesworth makes his 200th appearance for the club and Duncan Taylor and Chris Wyles return to the back line.

Match facts

  • Wasps have won their past six games since losing at Saracens in October - but they have only managed to climb to third in the table and still trail the leaders, champions Exeter, by 11 points.
  • In all competitions, Wasps' only defeat in the past eight games was at La Rochelle in the European Champions Cup.
  • Saracens' 46-31 win against Worcester Warriors last weekend brought their first try bonus point since October.
  • Saracens have lost just two of their past 12 Premiership meetings with Wasps - they were beaten 64-23 at Allianz Park in February 2016, then lost 35-15 on their most recent visit to Coventry in May.

Wasps director of rugby Dai Young told BBC Coventry & Warwickshire:

"There are things that we're pleased with. We're much better than we were at the start of the season but we're still far from the finished article.

"We've conceded 11 tries in the last three Premiership games, which is a concern. We're scoring tries but we're leaking them too.

"Set piece wise, we have to be better. We got on the wrong side of the referee last weekend and we can't afford to be giving away too many penalties up against a kicker of Owen Farrell's quality.

"Saracens are a quality team. We have to take the game to them as you're going to come unstuck if you try to sit back and contain them."

Wasps: Le Roux; Wade, De Jongh, Lovobalavu, Watson; Cipriani, Robson; Harris, Johnson (capt), Cooper-Woolley, Gaskell, Myall, Haskell, Young, Carr.

Replacements: Cruse, West, Moore, Launchbury, Thompson, Simpson, Miller, Armitage.

Saracens: Goode; Earle, Taylor, Barritt (capt), Wyles; Farrell, Wigglesworth; M Vunipola, Tolofua, Koch, Itoje, Isiekwe, Rhodes, Burger, B Vunipola.

Replacements: George, Barrington, Figallo, Skelton, Wray, Spencer, Lozowski, Maitland.

Referee: Wayne Barnes.

Source: BBC Rugby Union News

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By adamreeves / Administrator, bbp_keymaster on Jan 05, 2018