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TEAM NEWS | Ealing Trailfinders v Saracens Men

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(Photo by Henry Browne/Getty Images)

Jackson Wray says that matches like these bring the best out of the group, as Saracens Men prepare for their enormous final against Ealing Trailfinders on Sunday.

The Men in Black travel to Trailfinders Sports Club for the first leg of the Championship Play-Off Final, knowing that a big performance is required as they continue their pursuit of a return to the Premiership.

The starting line-up features 12 internationals for the biggest match of the season so far, with a significant amount of experience ready to take on the Trailfinders.

There are two changes to the side that produced a ruthless display in the 73-0 win over Coventry in May, both coming in the forwards.

Vincent Koch returns at tighthead, back after serving a one-match ban to join Mako Vunipola and Jamie George in the front-row.

Maro Itoje and Tim Swinson continue their partnership in the second-row while Michael Rhodes is back at blindside having recovered from an injury that has kept him out since April.

Jackson Wray and Billy Vunipola complete an experienced pack that last played together in the Champions Cup semi-final against Racing 92 in Paris back in September of last year.

Aled Davies and Owen Farrell renew their half-back pairing, the latter looking to add to the 73 points he has accumulated so far this season with the chance to become the league’s top points scorer very much in his sights.

The in-form midfield pairing of Nick Tompkins and Elliot Daly also continue, the Welshman boosted by an international call-up this week for their summer series.

And an exciting back three of Sean Maitland, Alex Lewington and Alex Goode will be relishing the chance to put Sarries in a dominant position in the first leg.

On the bench there is a five-three split that offers plenty of attacking options including Tom Whiteley, Rotimi Segun and the returning Duncan Taylor.

Wray says that the squad are raring to go for Sunday’s play-off in West London. “It’s a massive occasion and it’s the one that we wanted. It’s been a long build up and the longest pre-season ever but it’s finally here which is massively exciting.”

“We’ve got two weeks to dig in and we tend to build well in to these kind of games. This week has felt like we’re in that really focused mindset and we’re thriving on it. Ealing are a very good side who do the basics really well so we know it will be a difficult challenge but it’s the biggest game of the season and everyone brings their best to these games.”

Saracens Men team to play Ealing Trailfinders:

15 Alex Goode

14 Alex Lewington

13 Elliot Daly

12 Nick Tompkins

11 Sean Maitland

10 Owen Farrell ©

9 Aled Davies

1 Mako Vunipola

2 Jamie George

3 Vincent Koch

4 Maro Itoje

5 Tim Swinson

6 Michael Rhodes

7 Jackson Wray

8 Billy Vunipola

Replacements:

16 Tom Woolstencroft

17 Ralph Adams-Hale

18 Alec Clarey

19 Callum Hunter-Hill

20 Sean Reffell

21 Tom Whiteley

22 Duncan Taylor

23 Rotimi Segun

Source – Saracens

Premiership

Worrying injury list for Saracens

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(Photo by Henry Browne/Getty Images)

Saracens issued the following update regarding players who are looking to return from injury.

OWEN FARRELL

Will undergo surgery for an ankle injury sustained while playing for England against Australia, is expected to be out for 10-12 weeks.

JAMIE GEORGE 

Has returned to the club after picking up a knee injury last weekend at Twickenham, will return in 8-10 weeks.

ELLIOT DALY

Back in full training and available for selection imminently.

MARCO RICCIONI 

Will have surgery on Wednesday on the knee injury suffered last week, will miss the remainder of the 21/22 season.

RALPH ADAMS-HALE

Had successful surgery after dislocating his shoulder against Leicester, should be back playing in early 2022.

DUNCAN TAYLOR 

Will have surgery on Wednesday after injuring his arm against Harlequins in the Premiership Cup. Expected to be out for 3-4 months.

BILLY VUNIPOLA

Is back in training after suffering a knee injury at the end of October.

KAPELI PIFELETI 

Has returned to training following a shoulder injury sustained in the Storm match against London Irish in October.

SEAN REFFELL

Going through final stages of the return to play protocols following a concussion last week.

Source – Saracens

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Premiership

George Ford to join Sale Sharks

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Sale Sharks are delighted to announce that England fly-half George Ford has signed a long-term contract to join the club ahead of the 2022/23 Gallagher Premiership season.

Oldham-born Ford, who has won 77 caps for his country, put pen to paper this morning on a three-year deal which will see him join Alex Sanderson’s squad in July 2022.

The Sharks Director of Rugby hailed the move as ‘massive’ – and CEO Sid Sutton said it demonstrates the ambition of everyone at Carrington to take the club to the very top.

Alex said: “George Ford is world class – one of the very best fly-halves in the game over the past five years. This season he’s probably playing the best rugby of his career so we’re getting him at the right time.

“I met him twice and we had the chance to show him around the ground and the fact that he’s taken this decision, in the form that he’s in, with Leicester doing so well, tells me that he believes in the ambition of this club, and in the culture that we’re building.

“He’s a northerner and his heart is very much in this area. He’s been away for some years now but he’s coming back to his spiritual home. His family is hugely important to him and I know that his life outside rugby has played a part in this move.

“The exciting thing for me is that he’s 28 years old, and he’s coming here in the form of his life. We aspire to be a major force in the Premiership and in Europe too and we’ve got one of the world’s best flay-halves in his pomp.

“It’s massively exciting but not just because of how talented he is. When I’ve spoken to him it’s clear that he wants to help us bring the younger players in our squad on. He has so much desire to lift the people around him and that’s the kind of person I want here.

“It’s a massive boost for the club and it’s a big indication of what we’re all about and where we’re trying to get to.”

George Ford made his debut for Leicester Tigers in 2009, becoming the youngest rugby union player to make his professional debut in England, at just 16 years and 237 days.

After winning a Premiership title with Tigers in 2013, he moved to Bath, winning the Gilbert Golden Boot as the top-points scorer and winning LV= Young Player of the Year, before returning to Leicester for the 2018-19 season.

In total he has made 79 appearances for Leicester Tigers and is the league’s leading points scorer this season with 107 points to his name.

He made his England debut in 2014 and has since gone on to win 77 caps. He played a key role as Eddie Jones’s men reached the World Cup final in 2019.

Sharks CEO Sid Sutton said: “We’re just at the start of an exciting new era for Sale Sharks and this demonstrates the ambition of everyone at the club to push forwards and achieve great things.

“The club culture is based on the values of togetherness, pride, humility, fearlessness and passion and George has all of that and more. We’re a club with aspirations and good people involved pushing forwards both on and off the pitch and he wants to be a part of that.

“It’s massive for everyone involved with the club – players, staff, board and our supporters too.”

Commenting on the announcement George added: “I’m excited about what the future holds – playing rugby in the North West, representing the club where I am from and helping drive Sale Sharks forward.”

Images & Content from Sale Sharks Rugby

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Premiership

Tigers issue statement on George Ford statement

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(Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

Leicester Tigers can confirm that George Ford has indicated to the club that he will not be activating an option in his contract to remain beyond the current season.

The 28-year-old made his senior debut in 2009, while still a member of the Tigers Academy, and made 40 senior appearances for the club before leaving to join Bath Rugby in 2013.

He returned to Leicester in 2017 and has played 73 games during the past four seasons, to total 113 appearances for the club to date.

Leicester Tigers Head Coach Steve Borthwick said: “George has made a personal decision, which he informed us of earlier this week, which means this will be his final season in Leicester.

“I have had the pleasure of working with him for a number of years, with England and now here at Tigers, and I am grateful to have had that privilege.

“We are fortunate to have the best following in rugby, who have been able to enjoy watching George represent their club for many years and I am sure they will echo me in thanking him for his contribution to Tigers.”

“There are still a lot of games to be played in this season and George is fully committed to finishing his time at Leicester Tigers in front of big crowds at Mattioli Woods Welford Road, which our supporters can be proud of and to share in success with them.”

George Ford added: “It has been the most difficult decision of my career.

“I am proud and grateful to represent this great club at Leicester and I will give my all for the rest of my time at Tigers.”

Leicester Tigers will make no further comment on the matter at this time.

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