England back Farrell set for first game of season

Owen Farrell

Farrell has made 135 appearances for Saracens since making his debut as a 17-year-old

England back Owen Farrell will make his first appearance of the season as he starts for Saracens against three-time European Cup winners Toulon.

Farrell, 25, whose last match was England’s win over Australia in June, replaces Alex Lozowski at fly-half.

Alex Goode returns at full-back while Jamie George is preferred to Schalk Brits at hooker.

Wales full-back Leigh Halfpenny starts for Toulon, who are captained by South African flanker Duane Vermeulen.

Toulon, who have never lost at home in the pool stages of the competition, also include South African wing Bryan Habana and former All Blacks centre Ma’a Nonu in their starting line-up.

Farrell has had a back injury, and sat out parts of England’s get-together in Brighton earlier this month.


Farrell kicked 24 points in England’s whitewash-sealing victory over Australia in June

However, Saracens director of rugby Mark McCall has long targeted the trip to the Cote d’Azur as a comeback date for a player he has described as “the best in Europe”.

Toulon, who lost their domestic Top 14 final to Racing 92 in June, are formidable opposition at the Stade Mayol, but McCall believes his side can improve on the 31-23 defeat they suffered on their last visit in 2009.

“We have a group who relish these kinds of challenges and big occasions – I’m confident that our players will thrive in such an atmosphere,” he said.

Captain Brad Barritt is also optimistic his side can back up last weekend’s win over previously unbeaten Wasps by making early headway in a group that also includes Sale and Scarlets.

“This team has always prided itself on going to places that we’ve never won before,” he said.

“It’s a huge challenge for this team but it’s one that we’re really relishing and looking forward to.”


RC Toulon: Leigh Halfpenny; Josua Tuisova, Matt Carraro, Ma’a Nonu, Bryan Habana; Francois Trinh Duc, Sebastien Tillous-Borde; Florian Fresia, Guilhem Guirado, Levan Chilachava, Samu Manoa, Mamuka Gorgodze, Charles Ollivon, Juan Fernandez Lobbe, Duane Vermeulen (c)

Replacements: Jean-Charles Orioli, Xavier Chiocci, Manasa Saulo, Liam Gill, Mathieu Bastareaud, Pierre Bernard, Eric Escande, Romain Taofifenua

Saracens: Alex Goode; Sean Maitland, Marcelo Bosch, Brad Barritt (c), Chris Wyles; Owen Farrell, Richard Wigglesworth; Mako Vunipola, Jamie George, Juan Figallo, Maro Itoje, George Kruis, Jackson Wray, Schalk Burger, Billy Vunipola

Replacements: Schalk Brits, Richard Barrington, Petrus du Plessis, Jim Hamilton, Michael Rhodes, Ben Spencer, Alex Lozowski, Michael Ellery

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