Storylines: Saracens

Storylines: Saracens

Edinburgh Rugby travel south to face English Premiership side Saracens in Round 1 of the EPCR Challenge Cup this Saturday (11 December, kick-off 3.15pm) - streamed live at epcrugby.tv

There are the storylines to look out for as the capital side kickstart their European campaign at StoneX Stadium.


Savala starts

21-year-old stand-off Charlie Savala makes only his second start for the club having arrived from National Rugby League side Sydney Roosters last winter.

It is a chance for the young playmaker to showcase his talents against one of the toughest defences in Europe and bring his attacking intentions to the forefront, playing behind a pack made up entirely of Scotland Internationalists.

It is a tough cauldron for a player to make only their fifth appearance, however he will be able to lean on the experience of other game managers in the side, with James Lang and Mark Bennett making up the midfield, and Los Pumas international Emiliano Boffelli starting at full-back.


Our European adventure begins

Edinburgh have enjoyed a good record in the EPCR Challenge Cup in recent years, making one Final, one Semi-final and two Quarter-Finals since 2015.

Mike Blair’s side will be hoping to go one better than the 2014/15 campaign, which saw the capital club reach the tournament Final before falling short against Gloucester.

Edinburgh beat London Irish and the Newport Gwent Dragons on their way through the knock-out stages, however it was to be a familiar face that would be their undoing in the final.

Greig Laidlaw – who had left the club the season before – knocked over four penalties and converted a Billy Twelvetrees try to hand Gloucester a 19-13 victory and the Challenge Cup title.

Sam Hidalgo-Clyne finished the campaign as the tournament’s top point scorer, racking up 99 points, and the scrum half remains Edinburgh’s highest ever point scorer in the competition.

Form teams collide

Both Edinburgh and Saracens have enjoyed productive starts to their respective league campaigns and Saturday’s fixture will see two teams in red hot form going head-to-head.

Edinburgh sit second in the URC after 7 rounds and have only suffered one defeat. Similarly, Saracens are up in second of the English Premiership, having won six, drawn one, and lost twice.

The parallels don’t stop with either side’s league position however, as both teams can point to their unbeaten home records, with DAM Health Stadium and StoneX Stadium proving to be fortresses for either side.

Saracens lost their most recent match in a close encounter away to Exeter Chiefs, however their home record and season form means that Mike Blair’s side will have no small task to maintain their own winning habit.


Lang returns South

Saturday’s game will be a special occasion for centre James Lang, as he returns down south for the first time since his move north of the Border from Harlequins in the summer, and to the scene of one of his breakout moments as a professional rugby player.

As a Quins player back in 2017, Lang kicked a game winning conversion against Saracens in the 80th minute in the Anglo-Welsh Cup, securing a 30-29 win for his then side.

The occasion will be extra special for Lang, as he will vice-skipper his new side, stepping into a leadership role for the first time since arriving in the capital.


Southern comfort

Edinburgh have a strong record in England and arrive at the StoneX Stadium on the back of five consecutive wins down south across both the Challenge and Champions Cups.

The run kicked off with a 23-18 against Harlequins in the Challenge Cup, with Fraser McKenzie and Allan Dell bagging the scores to put Edinburgh into pole position to qualify for the knock-out rounds.

The following season Edinburgh faced London Irish – who they will visit in January – and came away with a convincing 37-14 win at the Madjeski Stadium.

One of Edinburgh’s most famous recent wins came in the away win at Newcastle Falcons in the Champions Cup, James Johnstone and Duhan van der Merwe crossed the whitewash to claim another convincing 21-8 road win.

Edinburgh claimed a win in Coventry against Wasps in the Challenge Cup, two late penalties from Jaco van der Walt claiming a snatch-and-grab last minute 9-7 win, and most recently Mark Bennett and van der Walt starred as Edinburgh came back from 13 points down to beat Sale Sharks 16-15 in last season's Champions Cup.

Edinburgh will be hoping to maintain their impressive English form, although Saracens offer a much bigger challenge than previous opposition might have.

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