Heineken Cup: Aviva Premiership leaders Saracens tackle Clermont Auvergne
Last Updated: 26/04/14 6:57pm
Aviva Premiership leaders Saracens take on formidable Clermont Auvergne in the Heineken Cup semi-final at Twickenham on Saturday.
Sarries head into the contest unbeaten in domestic competition since October, but when it comes to the European Cup French teams have ended their adventures in the past two seasons.
Clermont were 22-3 victors at Vicarage Road in the quarter-finals in 2012 and Toulon won 24-12 in last year's semi-final - and they were beaten twice in the Pool stages by Toulouse.
Perennial semi-finalists Clermont have won an astonishing 76 consecutive home games but have proved far more fallible away from their Parc des Sports Marcel.
'Les Jaunards' have lost nine away matches in the French Top 14 alone this season.
Their only success on the road since November came just down the road from Saturday's venue when they beat Harlequins at the Stoop.
These clubs have met three times in the premier competition before, with Clermont triumphing on each occasion and scoring a total of eight tries to two in the process.
They dispatched their opponents 22-3 in the quarter-finals last year, but considering Saracens' dominant form this season, you would expect them to match Clermont all the way in what should be a close contest.
Alex Goode starts at full-back and is joined by David Strettle and Chris Ashton in the back three as head coach Mark McCall makes three personnel changes to the starting XV that beat 14-man Ulster last time out.
In the midfield, Marcelo Bosch partners Brad Barritt at centre, whilst in the halves Owen Farrell is joined by experienced scrum-half Neil de Kock.
Up front, Mako Vunipola, Schalk Brits and James Johnston make up the front row, with Steve Borthwick captaining the side at second row - he is joined by Mouritz Botha at lock.
Kelly Brown starts at blindside flanker, with Premiership Player of the Season nominee Jacques Burger at openside flanker. England international Billy Vunipola starts at No.8 to complete the back row.
Meanwhile, Clermont will be without captain Aurelien Rougerie due to a thigh injury. Benson Stanley takes his place in one of three changes to the backline that faced Leicester in the quarter-finals.
Lee Byrne starts at full-back in the place of Jean-Marcellin Buttin while New Zealand wing Sitiveni Sivivatu returns, taking over from Noa Nakaitaci, who is on the bench.
Back row forwards Damien Chouly and New Zealander Fritz Lee have recovered from knocks to line up in an unchanged pack.
The winners of the match will face either holders Toulon or Munster, who meet on Sunday, in the final.
Saracens: 15 Alex Goode, 14 Chris Ashton, 13 Marcelo Bosch, 12 Brad Barritt, 11 David Strettle, 10 Owen Farrell, 9 Neil de Kock; 1 Mako Vunipola, 2 Schalk Brits, 3 James Johnston, 4 Steve Borthwick (c), 5 Mouritz Botha, 6 Kelly Brown, 7 Jacques Burger, 8 Billy Vunipola.
Replacements: 16 Jamie George, 17 Richard Barrington, 18 Matt Stevens, 19 Alistair Hargreaves, 20 Jackson Wray, 21 Richard Wiggleworth, 22 Tim Streather, 23 Chris Wyles.
Clermont: 15 Lee Byrne, 14 Sitiveni Sivivatu, 13 Benson Stanley, 12 Wesley Fofana, 11 Naipolioni Nalaga, 10 Brock James, 9 Morgan Parra; 1 Thomas Domingo, 2 Benjamin Kayser, 3 Davit Zirakashvili, 4 Jamie Cudmore, 5 Nathan Hines, 6 Julien Bonnaire (c), 7 Damien Chouly, 8 Fritz Lee.
Replacements: 16 Ti'i Paulo, 17 Vincent Debaty, 18 Clement Ric, 19 Julien Piere, 20 Gerhard Vosloo, 21 Thierry Lacrampe, 22 Mike Delany, 23 Noa Nakaitaci.
You can watch Saracens v Clermont Auvergne live from Twickenham on Saturday, Sky Sports 2HD at 3.15pm