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European Challenge Cup: Toulon v Saracens (Sat)

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Published in Rugby
Friday, 13 May 2022 05:24

England prop Mako Vunipola will make his first appearance in two months as Saracens travel to Toulon in the European Challenge Cup semi-finals.

Max Malins replaces Sean Maitland on the wing for his 50th appearance.

Nick Isiekwe is preferred to Tim Swinson in the second row.

Saracens last reached this stage of the Challenge Cup in 2009 when they lost to eventual winners Northampton at Franklin's Gardens.

It is their first season in the lower tier European competition since 2010 having won promotion from the Championship last season after their forced relegation because of salary cap rule breaches.

While Toulon are without star South Africa winger Cheslin Kolbe because of a broken thumb, they do have his compatriot Eben Etzebeth at second row in a line-up featuring 11 internationals.

Scotland's Cornell du Preez is alongside Charles Ollivon and Serio Parisse in a formidable back row, while France prop Jean-Baptiste Gros heads an all-international front row.

French internationals Baptiste Serin and Louis Carbonel will face England captain Owen Farrell and Wales scrum-half Aled Davies in the half-backs while Malins will be up against France's Six Nations-winning wing Gabin Villiere.

Saracens director of rugby Mark McCall:

"We have been watching Toulon for a while, and there has been quite a shift since they changed coach.

"There has been a real resurgence from a performance point of view since Franck [Azema] has been on board.

"And they've got great players - there is huge talent there, a formidable team.

"Over the last two or three months they have really picked up in terms of performances and results. They have beaten Toulouse and La Rochelle at their place, so we are well aware of the scale of the challenge."

Saracens: Goode; Malins, Daly, Tompkins, Segun; Farrell (capt), Davies; M Vunipola, George, Koch, Itoje, Isiekwe, McFarland, Earl, B Vunipola.

Replacements: Pifeleti, Mawi, Wainwright, Hunter-Hill, Christie, van Zyl, Taylor, Lozowski.

Toulon: Luc; Wainiqolo, Smaili, Paiai'aua, Villiere; Carebonel, Serin; Gros, Tolofua, Gigashvili, Etzebeth, Alainu'uese, Du Preez, Ollivon, Parisse

Replacements: Etrillard, Devaux, Setiano, Lakafia, Isa, Rebbadj, Belleau, Blanc.

Referee: Andrew Brace (Ire)

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